Franquet’s Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomops franqueti
Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat (Epomops franqueti) is a megabat that is native to Africa. Its range extends from Angola and Zambia in the south to Sudan and the Ivory Coast. This range includes Angola, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Rwanda, and Uganda, among other areas. It is thought that these bats may appear in Zambia as well. It prefers a habitat within tropical and subtropical mangrove, arid, and moist forests as well as in swamps and arid savannahs.
Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat was first discovered by Dr. Franquet of the French Imperial Navy, who sent the type specimen, from which it was described by Robert F. Tomes in 1860, to the French National Collection.
These bats can reach an average body length of up to 7.1 inches, with a weight between 2.1 and 5.6 ounces in males. As its name suggests, males of this species bare glandular sacs on the shoulders that resemble epaulettes and these are used to produce scent markings. Its fur is typically brown in color, with white fur appearing on the underbelly and ears.
Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat will roost in trees or bushes during the day, remaining alert for most of the time. When resting, the bats choose to be alone or have only one or two roost mates. Males are known to produce at least 10,000 high-pitched calls per night, which resemble the noises of crows.
In Uganda, Franquet’s epauletted fruit bats can breed twice per year, with births corresponding with two rainy seasons in that region. These seasons occur from April to September and from September to February. Studies have shown that populations in Zaire, Congo, and the Ivory Coast have the same breeding tendencies.
The diet of Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat consists mainly of fruit, but it will also consume petals and nectar from flowers. When searching for these foods, the bats can become very loud. Once fruit is found, it is either consumed on the spot or taken to a roost tree in the bat’s cheeks. Using its sharp teeth to puncture two holes in the fruit, the bat will turn the fruit around in its mouth, sucking the juice from the fruit. Once all of the juice is consumed, the bat will drop the rest of the fruit onto the ground, in the form of a round pellet.
Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat is one of three bat species that carries the Ebola virus, although it is not known if it actually transfers the disease to other animals or humans. Because there are no major threats and it occurs in high numbers across its range, Franquet’s epauletted fruit bat appears on the IUCN Red List with a conservation status of “Least Concern”.
Image Caption: Epomophorus francqueti= Epomops franqueti. Credit: G H Ford/Wikipedia