Do you know what a flying fox is? No, it’s not some kind of superhero. It’s actually a type of bat! And just like other bats, flying foxes can hang from their feet and fly around.
When most people think about bats, they probably think about the small, brown ones that hang from ceilings and fly around at night. But the flying fox is another type of bat! Flying foxes are much bigger than regular bats, and they live all over the world.
Learn more about these interesting creatures in today’s blog post.
What is a Flying Fox? Is it a Flying Fox or a Bat?
All bats are flying foxes, but not all flying foxes are bats! Confusing, right? Let’s explore what this means. Bats are divided into two groups based on their use of echolocation: microbats and mega bats.
Genetically, they are classified as yinptero-chiroptera and yango-chiroptera. All bats are classified as Chiroptera, which means “hand-winged.” (Chiro, as in chiropractor, means hand, and ptero, as in pterosaur, means wing.)
So now we know that all bats are members of the Chiroptera family, but not all members of the Chiroptera family are bats. Got it?
Flying foxes are a type of bat characterized by their large eyes and diet of fruit and nectar. They are also known as mega bats or yinptero-chiroptera. Some people dislike the term fruit bat because it ignores the fact that nectar and pollen make up a large portion of their diet.
Flying foxes are further divided into two groups: Old World fruit bats and New World fruit bats. Old World fruit bats are found in Africa, Asia, and Australasia. New World fruit bats are found in the Americas. Fruit bats play an important role in pollination and seed dispersal. Many species of fruit bats are endangered due to habitat loss and hunting.
What Do They Look Like?
While most people think of bats as small, spooky creatures that come out at night, the biggest species of bats are actually quite large and imposing.
Flying foxes, which are found in tropical regions around the world, can have a wingspan of up to 1 meter and a body length of 25 cm. These bats get their name from their fox-like heads, which are characterized by large eyes and dark fur.
While they may look intimidating, flying foxes are actually gentle giants that play an important role in their ecosystems. They pollinate flowers and disperse seeds, helping to ensure the health of the forests they call home.
Flying foxes are intelligent, social animals that live in large colonies of individuals and family groups. They are nocturnal creatures, so they are generally quiet during the day. But at dawn and dusk, they fly out to feed or return to their camp trees to sleep, and they make a lot of noise.
Flying foxes communicate through various calls, and they build permanent and semi-permanent camps near food sources and birthing sites. During the day, they roost in trees. If you disturbed a flying fox colony, they would be quite noisy. But because they are nocturnal, you’re more likely to see them flying at night than during the day.
Flying Fox Diet
Fruit bats are important pollinators of many different forest types, particularly Myrtacae species such as eucalypts and melaleucas. They eat fruit like juice extractors, chewing it into a bolus and then squeezing it against the roof of their mouth with their tongue to extract every last drop of juice.
This is then spat out, clearing their gut of the majority of the fiber and reducing their weight for flight. The nutrients must then be extracted by their gut in the next half hour or so before the waste is eliminated in their feces.
However, despite their importance, fruit bats have often been considered pests due to their feeding habits. In some countries, they are even hunted and killed in an effort to protect crops. Nevertheless, these creatures play an essential role in the ecosystems of many different forest types and should be protected.
Flying Fox Species
Grey-headed Flying Fox
The grey-headed flying fox is one of the most easily recognizable bats in Australia. As its name suggests, it has a distinctive rusty reddish-colored collar, grey head, and hairy legs. Adults have a wingspan of up to one meter and can weigh up to one kilogram.
Unfortunately, it is also the most endangered species of bat in Australia. The main threat to the grey-headed flying fox is habitat loss. They compete with humans for prime coastal habitat along the coasts of southeast Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
Traditional grey-headed flying-fox habitat is found within 200 kilometers of Australia’s eastern coast, from Bundaberg in Queensland to Melbourne in Victoria. However, due to urbanization and other factors, their habitat is constantly shrinking.
As a result, the grey-headed flying fox is now listed as critically endangered. Without intervention, this unique and important species may soon disappear entirely.
Little Red Flying Fox
Though they may look like sinister creatures out of a horror movie, flying foxes are actually harmless fruit eaters.
But don’t let their diet fool you – these bats can weigh up to two pounds and have a wingspan of nearly five feet! The little red flying fox is the smallest Australian flying fox, weighing in at a mere 300-600 grams.
These bats get their name from their reddish-brown fur, which is believed to help them blend in with the foliage of the trees they roost in during the day. Little reds are also known to fly much further inland than other flying-fox species, making them one of the most widespread bats in Australia.
Black Flying Fox
The Black Flying fox is a species of bat found in tropical and subtropical forests as well as woodlands. As its name suggests, it is black all over, with short fur covering its body and head. It is similar in size to the Grey-headed Flying-fox, another species of bat found in Australia.
Black Flying-foxes are nocturnal creatures, meaning they are most active at night. During the day, they roost in trees, sometimes hanging upside down. They are good flyers and use their powerful wings to fly between trees in search of food. Their diet consists mostly of fruit, although they will also eat flowers and insects.
Black Flying-foxes play an important role in the ecosystem by dispersing seeds through their droppings. However, they are considered a pest by some people because they can cause damage to crops.
Spectacled Flying Fox
The Spectacled Flying-fox (Pteropus conspiculatus) is an endangered species found in Queensland. It is the largest bat in Australia, with a wingspan of up to 1.5 meters.
The Spectacled Flying-fox is so named for the patches of white fur around its eyes, which resemble spectacles. These majestic creatures are important pollinators and seed dispersers for many rainforest plant species. Unfortunately, they are under threat from habitat loss and climate change. In addition, they are regularly killed by people who mistake them for vampires!
Thankfully, there are many conservation efforts underway to protect this important species. With luck, the Spectacled Flying-fox will continue to play a vital role in the dispersal of rainforest plants for many years to come.
lying foxes are one of the most fascinating and unique animals on the planet. With their massive wingspans, keen sense of smell, and gentle nature, they are definitely worth getting to know.
Hopefully, this post has given you a little more information about these amazing creatures and encouraged you to learn more about them.
As there are many fantastic species of animals and insects in the nature, read also about the 5 types of poisonous caterpillars.