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Rodrigues Fruit Bat (Pteropus rodricensis) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Rodrigues Fruit Bat (Pteropus rodricensis)

Activity Cycle

  • Crepuscular (most active at dawn and dusk); nocturnal
  • At dusk fly to fruit trees to feed.
    • Foraging areas well removed from roosts
  • Roost on higher trees that rise above forest canopy
    • During daylight bats typically move about the roost site
    • Males actively defend roosting territory
    • Females may associate with different bats when roosting than when foraging
  • For maintaining body temperature, don't use torpor ("temporary hibernation") as do small microchiropterans (McNab & Armstrong 2001)
    • To keep warm, wrap wings around body and tuck in head
    • To keep cool, fan wings gently, pant

Home Range

  • Home range very limited; less than 1,000 km² (386 mi²)
  • Dominant males hold a roosting territory and a separate feeding territory.

Social Groups

General

  • Strongly colonial and gregarious; crowding together in roosting tree is a favored strategy (Pierson and Rainey 1992) (West & Redshaw 1987)
  • Males defend harems of up to 8 females.

Hierarchy

  • Dominant males control a group of females
  • Subordinate males roost together separately

Communication

Displays

  •  Males thrust thumb with claw towards opponent's head in aggressive display

Vocalization

  • Both sexes vocalize during mating
  • Vocalization frequent during aggressive interaction.

Olfaction/Scent Marking

  • Males may mark a tree with chin and neck glands during mating season. (Kulzer 1990)
  • Males in captivity make perches or walls with nick and chin glands (Carroll 1979)
  • In males of many Pteropus species studied, glands on the back of the neck excrete sticky substance that mats the hair in mating season (Kulzer 1990)

Agonistic Behavior and Defense

  • "Wing shake" used by adult males, females, juveniles (Carroll 1979)
    • One or both wings thrust forward folded to position the thumb claw in front
    • Wings shaken with claw aimed toward the opponent's head while emitting harsh vocalization
  • Males and females in captivity show aggression towards intruders in their territory (Carroll 1979)

Territorial Behavior

  • Adult males defend small territory 
    • Foraging areas defended by individual males
    • Males also actively defend roosting territory
  • Males may mark tree branches with scents from glands on chin and neck. (Kuzel 1990)

Other Behaviors

Play (Carroll 1979)

  • "Play chase" by immature bats flying to one location and rapidly leaving
  • "Play wrestle" involves close belly contact between individuals, with restrained biting on the neck
    • A pair of bats, or even a group may wrestle together
    • Adult females often; adult males rarely
  • Sometimes chase and wrestle alternate in long play sessions

Locomotion

(Carroll 1979)

  • Not strong flyers but can take off from ground
  • In a study of impacts with Australian airlines several flying foxes flew at elevations around 150 m (492 ft) (Parsons et al 2008)
    • Occasionally up to 1,500 m (4,921 ft)
  • Observations from a captive colony at Jersey Preservation Trust
    • Moving with left hindlimb, right forelimb, right hindlimb, left forelimb; thumb claw helps front limb grasp
    • Faster moving with diagonally opposite limbs moving together (used by males defending territory)
  • Occasionally flap wings in place, holding onto branch with feet; common in infants and juvenile
  • Resting postures:
    • Most common when resting - one or both feet grasp perch, bat hangs head down; wings fold around body
    • When awake and alert, wings fold to sides, with belly fur visible

Interspecies Interactions

  • Serve as vital pollinators and seed dispersers (Cox et al 1991, Cox & Elmqvist 1992)
    • Like other Pteropus species, are the only native animals or one of few that pollinate and disperse seeds
    • Diversity of island flora depends P. rodricensis
    • Without these "strong interactors" a "cascade of linked plant extinctions" may result
  • Rodrigues in historic past had many more species of animals:
    • Up to 14 endemic bird species; nearby Mauritius also supported now-extinct dodo (Raphus cucullatus). (Carroll 1981)
    • Extinct birds included the large flightless Solitare, two owl species, two parrots, a rail, a flightless heron
    • Extinct reptiles included 2 or 3 giant tortoise species (over 20,000 removed from Rodrigues between 1759 and 1761)

Hanging Out

Rodrigues Fruit bat hanging

A typical resting posture of the Rodrigues fruit bat.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

AZA (2000)
Carroll (1979, 1981)
Cox et al. (1991)
Cox & Elmqvist (1992)
Crichton & Krutzsch (2000)
Kulzer (1990)
Nowak (1999)

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