Schlieffen's bat (Nycticeinops schlieffeni)

Also known as: Schlieffen's twilight bat
Synonyms: Nycticeius schlieffeni
GenusNycticeinops (1)
SizeHead-body length: 4 - 5 cm (2)
Tail length: 2.8 - 3.1 cm (2)
Average male weight: 4.7 g (3)
Average female weight: 5.1 g (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

Schlieffen’s bat is not only one of the smallest species of bat on the African continent, it is also the only species in the world belonging to the genus Nycticeinops (5). The tiny head and body of this unique bat is a light sandy-brown colour, while the fur of the underparts is paler and in some cases almost white (5). In contrast with the relatively fair-coloured body, the wings and the membrane stretching between the legs (known as the interfemoral membrane) are characteristically dark brown (4). The muzzle of this species is distinctively flattened, with sparse hairs present at the tip (6), and the ears are rounded and have a characteristic pointed tragus (the fleshy projection at the entrance of the ear) (4) (6).

Schlieffen’s bat occurs in two distinct populations within a large range. The population in in East and Southern Africa occurs from Sudan and Somalia, south to Namibia and South Africa, while the range of the population in West Africa stretches from Mauritania and Senegal to western Chad (1). An isolated population used to occur in the Nile Delta, Egypt, but no specimen has been found there since 1859 and it is probably now extinct in Egypt (7).

The preferred habitat types of Schlieffen’s bat are dry and moist savanna, dry shrubland, desert, and semi-desert (1). Its habitat typically receives between 250 and 1,500 millimetres of rainfall per year (3).

During the day, the nocturnal Schlieffen’s bat tends to roost in groups in tree hollows (3) (8), rock crevices (9), and in various buildings (6). It emerges from roosting just before dusk, hence its alternative name of ‘twilight bat’, to begin foraging (2). As an insectivorous species, Schlieffen’s bat depends on marshes, streams, riverside forest and floodplains for foraging, where an abundance of insects may be found (10) (11); however, floral matter has also been found in its faeces in some areas, suggesting a degree of omnivory (12). In contrast to its social roosting behaviour, Schlieffen’s bat tends to forage on its own (13).

Schlieffen’s bat reproduces once a year, with mating occurring in June (4). However, the eggs are not fertilised until late August, when ovulation occurs; in the intervening period, the male sperm is stored in the female’s uterine horns (14). The majority of offspring are born in November (4), with each litter containing one to four offspring (14).

Schlieffen’s bat is currently not considered to be at risk of extinction, due to it being a relatively widespread and common species (1). However, like many bat species, it is likely that Schlieffen’s bat is affected by the loss of foraging habitats, as a result of poor land management and agricultural practices, and the destruction and degradation of roosting habitats in some areas (15).

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for this species. However, general recommendations for the conservation of bats include improving legal protection for all bat species, which will hopefully aid implementing improved practices in agriculture and when restoring buildings, to avoid the destruction of bat habitats and roosts (15).

To learn more about bat conservation see:

Checked (24/08/10) by Dr Francis Gilbert, Associate Professor, University of Nottingham.

  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2010)
  2. Smithers, R.H.N. (1983) The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. University of Pretoria, Republic of South Africa.
  3. Rautenbach, I.L. (1982) Mammals of the Transvaal. Volume 1. Ecoplan Monograph, Pretoria, South Africa.
  4. Skinner, J. D. and Chimimba, C. T. (2005) The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  5. Johnson, D.S. (2006) Nycticeinops schlieffeni. Mammalian Species, 798: 1-4.
  6. Rosevear, D.R. (1965) The Bats of West Africa. British Museum of Natural History, London, England.
  7. Gilbert, F. (2010) Pers. comm.
  8. Verschuren, J. (1957) Ecologie, biologie et systematique des Chrioptres. Exploration. du Parc National de Garamba. Institut des Parcs Nationaux du Congo Belge, 7: 1-473.
  9. Pinaar, U. de V., Joobert, S.C.J., Hall-Martin, A., de Graaf, G. and Rautenbach, I.L. (1987) Field Guide to the Mammals of the Kruger National Park. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  10. Smithers, R.H.N. (1971) The Mammals of Botswana. Museum Memoir 4. National Museums of Rhodesia, Salisbury, Zimbabwe.
  11. Fenton, M.B. and Thomas, D.W. (1980) Dry-season overlap in activity patterns, habitat use, and prey selection by some African insectivorous bats.Biotropica, 9: 73-85.
  12. Seamark, E.C.J. and Bogdanowicz, W. (2002) Feeding ecology of the common slit-faced bat (Nycteris thebaica) in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Acta Chironopterologica, 4: 49-54.
  13. Nowak, R.M. (1994) Walker’s Bats of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  14. van der Merwe, M. and Rautenbach, I.L. (1986) Multiple births in Schlieffen’s bat, Nycticeius schlieffeni (Peters, 1859) (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) from the southern African subregion. South African Journal of Zoology, 21: 48-50.
  15. Temple, H.J. and Cuttelod, A. (2009). The Status and Distribution of Mediterranean Mammals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.