Straw-colored Fruit Bat, Eidolon helvum
The straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum), the most extensively distributed of all the African megabats, is one of the largest types of fruit bat. Its African range includes the southwestern Arabian Peninsula, the offshore island of Madagascar, and the Saharan and forest zones of Africa. It can be found in urban areas and does not appear to be effected by them. Found at an altitude of 6,600 feet, the straw-colored fruit bat prefers to roost in trees. This bat was given the status of “Near Threatened” by the IUCN because of a decrease in population numbers.
Despite its name, the straw-colored fruit bat only has a tawny or yellowish color on its back and neck, with the rest of the fur colored black or dark grey. The straw color differs between males and females. Male bats usually have an orange color, while females have a yellowish color. The pouch like cheeks, ears, heart, and eyes of this bat are large. Although the size differs due to the sex of an individual bat, the straw colored fruit bat can reach a body length of nine inches. It can reach an average weight between eight to twelve ounces and has a wingspan of up to thirty inches.
Being a highly social creature, the straw-colored fruit bat will live in groups of up to 100,000 bats, and this number can reach 1 million at specific times. Smaller groups will leave the roost in order to search for food that can be found in nearby plantations for forests. The bats will use not only sight, but also their sense of sound to locate food. In the wild, these bats will eat fruits, bark, nectar, flowers, and leaves. Bats in captivity are fed a mixture of bat food including many types of fruit and may even be fed a marmoset diet including vegetables.
Although the straw-colored fruit bat feeds at night, they cannot be considered nocturnal because they can be seen moving about their roosts during the day. These bats will continue to use roosts year round if food can be found abundantly nearby. During migrations, this bat can be found moving into Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. The straw-colored fruit bat is an important seed disperser for the uncommon African tree Milicia excels.
Image Caption: Eidolon helvum, Zoological Garden Berlin, Germany. Credit: Fritz Geller-Grimm/Wikipedia