Thyropteridae – Disk-winged bats

A family of neotropical (Central and South America) bats – one genus and five species strong

These bats are named for the distinctive suction cups located at the base of their thumbs and heels, an extraordinary feature that allows them to adhere to smooth surfaces, including the undersides of leaves where they roost. This unique roosting behavior is not only a marvel of natural selection but also a testament to the incredible diversity found within the bat world.

Inhabiting the moist tropical forests of Central and South America, these bats are relatively small, with their fur ranging in color from reddish to brown, which provides camouflage within their forested environments. Unlike many bat species that form large colonies, disc-winged bats typically live in small, cohesive groups. These colonies demonstrate strong social bonds and complex interactions, which are essential for their survival in the dynamic and sometimes harsh conditions of the tropical forest.

The roosting behavior of disc-winged bats is particularly intriguing. Unlike the majority of bats, which hang upside-down, these bats roost in an upright position, utilizing the suction cups on their limbs to cling to the smooth surfaces of leaves. This adaptation not only offers protection from predators by allowing them to hide in plain sight among the foliage but also minimizes their exposure to parasites that might otherwise infest their roosting sites.

Disc-winged bats feed exclusively on insects, playing a crucial role in controlling insect populations within their habitats. Their diet likely includes a variety of forest-dwelling insects, which they adeptly capture using their well-developed echolocation abilities. This insectivorous diet underscores the importance of disc-winged bats in maintaining ecological balance, as they help to regulate insect populations, some of which may be pests to plants within the forest ecosystem.