Alien Earthlings

in Drake Bay, Costa Rica

 

 

Tracie "The Bug Lady"  invites you  on an out  of this world  walk on...
The Dark Side

Discover the hidden treasures of Drake Bay,  Costa Rica with Tracie "The Bug Lady"

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Tent making Bats

Tent-making Bats

 

Tropical rainforests are home to the greatest diversity of bats on the planet.  One might think housing would be an issue, after all, caves are often few and far between.  Not so.  Tropical bats have come up with some innovative ways to open the rainforest real estate market.

Many species of bat will take advantage of "pre-fab" homes - the bats simply move into a hollow tree, rock crevice, fallen log, even the over-hang of a house.  One group of bats, though, takes roosting to another level and actually constructs its own home.  These are the tent-making bats.

Tent-making bats fashion their homes by biting and chewing the veins and midribs of leaves until they droop into a cozy tent.  The underside of the leaf provides shelter from both rain and sun, and even acts as an advanced warning system against potential predators.  It would be near impossible for any animal to approach the bats without shaking the leaf first.  Even the slightest unsettling movement would trigger  the bats to fly out to safety. 

Tents are made from several species of plant, including heliconias, palms, bananas, philodendrons and others.  Thomas' Fruit Eating Bat, Artibeus watsoni, was documented using 19 different species of plants for tents in Corcovado National Park.  That is more species of plant than any other bat is known to use.

Tent-making Bats

 

Depending on the species  of Tent-making Bat, they may roost alone or, with most species,  in small groups.  In Drake Bay, Gian and I have found groups of twenty roosting in tents in our garden.  Amazingly, researchers have documented up to 60 bats from a single tent.

 

Fruit makes up the greatest part of a tent-making bats diet.  They will occasional eat nectar, pollen, flower parts, and insects as well.

 

Tent-making Bats

 

 

Gian and I often encounter tent-making bats on the Night Tour. The bats we normally see are taking a break form their nightly rounds, or are feeding on a plucked fruit they have brought back to the roost. Because they spend most of the night foraging, the best time to observe tent-making bats is during the day.

Tent-making Bats

 

The tent-making bats belong to the subfamily Stenodermatinae, otherwise known as Tailless or Neotropical Fruit Bats.  In Costa Rica, at least 15 species of Neotropical Fruit Bats engineer their own roosting sites by shaping leaves.  Accurately  distinguishing between the different species of tent-making bats can be difficult and may require capturing the bat and looking at subtle differences in size, color, hairiness, as well as their dentition.

Here are a few videos of Tent-making Bats we recently recorded on the tour.

This video shows a Hairy Bir-eyed Bat, Chiroderma villosum, feeding on some fruit while pooping and peeing. I wrote a blog post about this particular encounter which you can view by clicking here

 

 

Below is a video of Thomas' Fruit-eating Bat, Artibeus watsoni, feeding during the Night Tour

 

 

 

References:

Kricher, J.  1989  A Neotropical Companion  Princeton University Press

LaVal, R. & Rodriguez, B.  2002  Murcielagos de Costa Rica/Bats  Editorial INBio

Wainwright, M.  2002  The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals  Zona Tropical

Wilson, D.  1997  Bats in Question  Smithsonian Institution Press

 

Mammal Files

Mammals Home Page

Bats Home Page

Brazilian Long-nosed Bats

Greater Bulldog Fishing Bats

Tent-making Bats

White-lined Bats

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth

Kinkajous - Potos flavus

Common Opossums - Didelphis marsupialis

Northern Tamandua - Tamandua mexicana

Central American Woolly Opossum - Caluromys derbianus

 

 

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