Jamaican Fruit Bat, Artibeus jamaicensis

The Jamaican fruit bat (Artibeus jamaicensis), also known as the Mexican fruit bat or the common fruit bat, is native to South and Central America. It can also be found in the Greater and Lesser Antilles. Its range extends from southern Mexico to northwestern Argentina, and also includes the islands of Tobago, Trinidad, and the Florida Keys. It prefers habitats at elevations between sea level and 7,004 feet in humid and tropical areas. It can be found in cloud forests and arid habitats as well.

The Jamaican fruit bat can reach an average body length of up to 3.5 inches, with a wingspan of 5.9 inches. It can weigh between 1.4 and 2.1 ounces. The dorsal fur is pale gray in color, while the wings are dark gray and the underbelly is pale. The ears are small and ridged with a serrated tragus, and the visible nose leaf bears many sebaceous glands. The bottom lip is covered with warts. One distinctive trait of this bat is the lack of a visible tail.

The Jamaican fruit bat will form roosts in hollow trees, caves, old buildings, and leaf tents. The bats will form these tents by manipulating leaves within the trees, but will not use them for long. Social structures within roosts are based off the reproductive style called “resource defensive polygyny”. In this system, males will choose a territory within a roost, and females will choose the greatest area to roost and mate in. Males will remain in their birth roosts, while females may leave to form roosts with other females.

In areas where there are abundant roosting sites, some harem groups will form “female defensive polygyny”. In these groups, males will defend females against foreign males by attacking them, but not all other males are approached with violence. Subordinate males are allowed to stay in the harem group, and they may even help defend the roost against foreign males. In many cases, these subordinate males are the dominant male’s pups.

The mating season for the Jamaican fruit bat is at the end of the rainy season, and females are able to give birth twice a year. Typically, only one pup is born in each litter after a pregnancy lasting up to seven months if fertilization is delayed. Females will remain in the roost with their pups on the first day of their life, but will leave the next day in order to forage for food. Weaning occurs at around fifteen days of age, although the pups will not be able to fly until fifty days of age, when their forearms are well developed.

The Jamaican fruit bat is a frugivore, feeding on many types of fruit, but they prefer to consume figs. When foraging for fruit, these bats will rely on their sense of sight and smell to find desirable food, and will carry the fruit back to the roost to eat it. They have been known to carry fruit as heavy as 1.7 ounces, and because of this method of foraging, they are important seed dispersers. They have been known to eat leaves in order to supplement their diet with protein.

The Jamaican fruit bat has many known predators including owls, large opossums, and snakes. When captured by one of these predators, the victim will emit a series of calls on a range of 15 kHz, alerting its roost-mates to the danger. These bats can contract both inner and outer parasites, as well as rabies and Histoplasma capsulatum. The average lifespan of a Jamaican fruit bat in the wild is nine years.

The Jamaican fruit bat has been found to be the most influential fruit bat in its range. Its ability to disperse seeds makes it very important to ecological sustainment. Because of its large range and distribution, and its ability to adapt to different climates and lack of imminent threats, the IUCN has listed it as a species of “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List.

Image caption: “Artibeus jamaicensis”, Jamaican Fruit-Eating Bat. Credit: Tobusaru/Wikipedia(CC BY 3.0)