Pteropodidae – Old World fruit bats

Meet the Megabats, the flying foxes with a sweet tooth for fruit

Widely known as megabats or fruit bats, it encompasses a diverse group of bats characterized by their distinct physical and ecological traits. These bats are often called “flying foxes” due to their resemblance to terrestrial foxes or dogs, a feature most noticeable in their facial structure and large, forward-facing eyes. This resemblance is more than superficial; it signifies their unique evolutionary path within the Chiroptera order.

One of the most distinctive features of megabats is the presence of a claw on their second digit, a trait not found in most other bat families. This anatomical feature, along with their strong and agile limbs, aids in their ability to grasp and manipulate fruits and navigate through the foliage in search of food.

Pteropodidae bats include some of the largest bat species in the world, such as the greater flying fox and the giant golden-crowned flying fox. These species can weigh up to 1.6 kg (about 3 pounds) and boast wingspans of up to 1.7 meters (5.6 feet), making them truly impressive specimens within the bat world. Their large size is complemented by adaptations that enable long-distance flight, such as significant lung capacities and the ability to maintain heart rates exceeding 700 beats per minute. These physiological adaptations are essential for their nomadic lifestyle, as they traverse vast distances in search of fruit and nectar.

Unlike their echolocating cousins, the microbats, Pteropodidae bats do not possess echolocation abilities. Instead, they rely heavily on their well-developed eyesight and keen sense of smell to locate food. This sensory reliance facilitates their role as pollinators and seed dispersers in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. By feeding on fruit and nectar, they play a crucial role in the reproduction of many plant species, aiding in the spread of seeds and contributing to the health and diversity of their habitats.