Date:October 21, 2020

Honduran White Bats Are Some Cute Living Marshmallows Who Sleep In Leaf Tents

One of the cutest of all bats, the Honduran white bat is a prime example of going against the stereotypical myths about bats. Neither do they live in caves like the others of its kind nor do they have dark coloration on their body. These little creatures are probably one of the most benign things you are likely to come across in Central America if you are lucky.

Adorable and fascinating, these tiny puffball bats utilize their habitat in expert fashion to protect them from weather and predator alike.

These bats can live in Honduras as well as Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, and Colombia

Photo credit Geoff Galice

With an average length of 3.7 – 4.7 cm, Honduran white bats are tiny for a bat. They aren’t the smallest, though, that award goes to the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, with a length of 29 to 33 mm (1.1 to 1.3 in) and weight of 2 g (0.071 oz).

True to their name, they have a fluffy white coat. Their ears, face, nose, and parts of their legs and wings are bright orange. Almost no hair grows on their black wings. Since their nose protrudes from their face in a triangular shape, scientists call members of their family “leaf-nosed bats.” There is a thin, black membrane covering their skull that might provide the bats with protection from ultraviolet radiation—a natural form of sunscreen!

They are part of the leaf-nosed bat family, which contains 200 species

Honduran white bats live only in the lowland rainforests of eastern Honduras, northern Nicaragua, eastern Costa Rica, and western Panama. They live in rainforests that have heliconia plants. By cutting along the veins of heliconia leaves, these bats force the leaves to collapse into upside-down V-shaped “tents” that might shelter only one bat or as many as twelve bats.

When they roost, they hang close together upside down in the center of the leaf. The tents help protect them during the daytime from rain, the hot sun, and predators. In fact, the bats choose leaves that are six feet off the ground—high enough to be out of the reach of terrestrial predators. Also, the stems of heliconia plants are not very strong, so any predator brushing against the leaf causes the bats’ tent to shake. This alerts the bats to danger and they fly quickly away.

Honduran White Bats are one of only two species of solid white bat—the other is the ghost bat

During the day, Honduran white bats roost under their tents. At night, they emerge to search for food. However, these creatures are not looking to suck your blood—they only eat fruit or vegetation.

Since Honduran white bats live mainly under heliconia leaves, rainforest destruction is a serious threat. For this species to survive, rainforests in the Central American lowlands that have heliconia must remain standing. Natural predators may include opossums, snakes, and other carnivorous animals.

These bats only grow to be about 3.7 to 4.7cm in length, with males being a little bigger

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No one really knows how long these bats live in the wild. Scientists don’t know much about the Honduran white bat, and one of the many mysteries surrounding this creature is its lifespan. Although most leaf-nosed bats in the same family live to be about seven years of age, there is no real evidence to support or debunk this theory for the Honduran white bat. The longest-lived leaf-nosed bat can live up to 18 years in the wild, so scientists guess that the Honduran white bat lives somewhere between 7 and 18 years. This is just a theory, however, and there have been no significant efforts to study the lifespan of these bats.

 

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Dan W had joined Steve, Fee and Dan H in Costa Rica and after only about three hours they had arrived at the first site and found the first roost of these guys, the Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) who many think is one of the cutest bat species we have. These are tent making bats, they bite along the stem of the leaf to make it a more suitable shape to roost in. We found three roosts of these guys, this one being the biggest with around 15 individuals present. Plenty more photos to edit when I get home including one shot of these guys in flight we took that evening #bat #bats #wildlife #wildlfephotography #chiroptera #ecology #wildlifeconservation #wildliferesearch #batcru #ilovebats #batman #batmandan #batconservation #realbatman #batsofinstagram #aewcltd #bbcearth #bbcwildlife #cutebats #batsarecool #batconservationinternational #batconservationtrust #naturephoto #earthcapture #mammalsociety #honduranwhitebat #ectophyllaalba #fluffball #cutewildanimals

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These bats are very social and tend to live in groups of six. Although it’s most common to see these bats in a group of about six, they like to live in little colonies all sharing the same big leaf. For this reason, you can easily find Honduran white bats in groups of up to 15, depending on the size of the colony as well as the size of the leaf in question. It is possible to find a single bat on its own, but this is not very common and is likely a result of the bat being lost or, for whatever reason, kicked out of its colony.

 

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Dan W had joined Steve, Fee and Dan H in Costa Rica and after only about three hours they had arrived at the first site and found the first roost of these guys, the Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) who many think is one of the cutest bat species we have. These are tent making bats, they bite along the stem of the leaf to make it a more suitable shape to roost in. We found three roosts of these guys, this one being the biggest with around 15 individuals present. Plenty more photos to edit when I get home including one shot of these guys in flight we took that evening #bat #bats #wildlife #wildlfephotography #chiroptera #ecology #wildlifeconservation #wildliferesearch #batcru #ilovebats #batman #batmandan #batconservation #realbatman #batsofinstagram #aewcltd #bbcearth #bbcwildlife #cutebats #batsarecool #batconservationinternational #batconservationtrust #naturephoto #earthcapture #mammalsociety #honduranwhitebat #ectophyllaalba #fluffball #cutewildanimals

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Honduran white bats are vegetarians, and in fact, most scientists consider them to be frugivorous. This is a term that means they eat only fruit. Specifically, these bats love a specific type of fig from a ficus tree that grows in the rainforests they call home. If these figs cannot be found, they may eat other types of fruit and, very rarely, other plant life. However, it is extremely uncommon for these bats to eat anything outside of their beloved figs. Scientists do not yet understand how they can survive so effectively on a diet of one type of fruit.

Sources
  • Jukofsky, Diane. Encyclopedia of Rainforests. Connecticut: Oryx Press, 2002.
  • Casebeer, R.S., Linsky, R. B. and C. E. Nelson. 1963. The phyllostomid bats, Ectophylla alba and Vampyrum spectrum, in Costa Rica. Journal of Mammalogy. 44: 186 – 189.
  • Timm, R. and J. Mortimer. 1976. Selection of roost sites by Honduran white bats, Ectophylla alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomatidae). Ecology. 57: 385 – 389.
  • University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
  • The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
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