Flying Foxes & Microbats

There are two types of bats—the flying-foxes, which are all fruit and nectar feeders and their microbat relatives, insectivorous bats, both are nocturnal and sadly declining in numbers due to habitat loss. The two types of bats appear to have evolved separately, making them distinct groups of mammals.

All bats hang upside down.

The body modifications that enable bats to fly mean that bats can no longer stand on their hind legs. They have a small pelvis, and their legs as well as arms are altered to form wings. However, bats also have special tendons in their feet that cling to objects, allowing them to hang upside down without any effort. This is the reason why you sometimes see bats hanging on ceilings or wires long after they have died. However when they need to go to the toilet, or when giving birth they hang the “right way up” by their thumbs.

Flying-foxes range in size from the tiny blossom-bats that could fit in the palm of a human hand, through to the more familiar flying-foxes ‘fruit bats’, which can have a wingspan of more than a metre. They rely on well-developed vision to see at night and their highly developed memories, allows flying-foxes to easily find previously-visited feeding sites. Flying-foxes are Australia’s largest flying mammal. Fossils show that flying-foxes have been a part of the night sky for more than 35 million years.

Flying-foxes are critical for the survival of Australia’s Eucalypt forests and the overall health of our ecosystem, dispersing seeds of over 50 native trees and pollinating flowering plants of the Australian bush.  Because flying-foxes are highly mobile, seeds can be moved locally and over great distances. s they travel, flying-foxes disperse seeds in their droppings and carry a dusting of pollen from tree to tree, fertilising flowers as they feed. Eucalypts rely heavily on these pollinators, producing most of their nectar and pollen at night to coincide with when bats are active.