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Free-Tailed Bats and Mastiff Bats: Molossidae - Brazilian Free-tailed Bat (tadarida Brasiliensis): Species Accounts

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Physical characteristics: Also called the Mexican free-tailed bat, Brazilian free-tailed bats are small to medium in size, with a total head and body length of approximately 3.8 inches (9.5 centimeters).


Geographic range: Brazilian free-tailed bats are found in the southern half of the United States, as well as Mexico, Central America, South America to southern Chile and Argentina, and much of the Lesser and Greater Antilles.

Brazilian free-tailed bats may roost in colonies of millions of bats. These are some of the largest colonies of mammals in the world. (John Hoffman/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Brazilian free-tailed bats are primarily found in arid and semi-arid habitats. They are also found in urban areas, moist forests, and grassland areas. These bats roost in caves, mine tunnels, tree hollows, and under bridges. They also are frequently found in and around buildings.


Diet: These bats feed on a range of insects, including moths, beetles, weevils, mosquitoes, flying ants, and leafhoppers.


Behavior and reproduction: Brazilian free-tailed bats are best known for their immense roosting colonies. While roosts of several dozen have been found, these bats also roost in colonies that reach the millions. A colony that lives in Bracken Cave, Texas, makes up the largest colony of mammals in the world, with an estimated twenty million individuals in this summertime maternity colony. They fly high above the ground when foraging for prey, except when sweeping over a body of water to drink.

Mating among these bats is considered promiscuous (prah-MISS-kyoo-us), meaning males and females mate with more than one other bat. Females bear a single offspring once a year in May to July. In maternity roosts where millions of bats are packed tightly together, mothers are able to identify and nurse their own young.


Brazilian free-tailed bats and people: Many of the insects these bats eat are considered pests by humans. These bats are also known carriers of rabies.


Conservation status: Many of the large colonies have declined dra-matically in numbers. The IUCN lists Brazilian free-tailed bats as Near Threatened. ∎

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Fenton, M. Brock. Bats. New York: Checkmark Press, 2001.

Fenton, M. Brock. The Bat: Wings in the Night Sky. Buffalo, NY: Firefly Books, 1998.

Nowak, Ronald M. "Free-tailed Bats and Mastiff Bats." Walker's Mammals of the World 5.1 Online. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/chiroptera/chiroptera.molossidae.html (accessed on July 5, 2004).

Raabe, Emily. Free-Tailed Bats. New York: Powerkids Press, 2003.

Richardson, Phil. Bats. London: Whittet Books, 1985.

Ruff, Sue, and Don E. Wilson. Bats. New York: Benchmark Books, 2001.

Schober, Wilfried, and Eckard Grimmberger. The Bats of Europe and North America. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1997.

Periodicals:

Bowers, Barbara. "Going to Bat for the Bats." Audubon (December 2003): 86

Finnegan, Lora J. "Bats about Bats." Sunset (July 1993): 38

Kerner, Sarah. "In the Bat Cave: These Guys Got an Up-close Look at One of the World's Most Misunderstood Creatures. Lesson Learned: Bats get a Bad Rap!" Boys' Life (June 2003): 18

McCracken, Gary F., and John K. Westbrook. "Bat Patrol: Scientists Discover That High-flying Mammals are Bad News for Bugs." National Geographic (April 2002): 114

Vine, Katy. "Pow (Going Batty)!" Texas Monthly (January 2004)

"Wings in the Dark." Weekly Reader (October 31, 2003): 4

Web sites:

"Natural Resources: The Bat Colony." Carlsbad Caverns National Park: National Park Service. http://www.nps.gov/cave/bats.htm (accessed on July 5, 2004).

"Discover the Secret World of Bats." Bat Conservational International, Inc. http://www.batcon.org (accessed on July 5, 2004).

Kee, Lim Gaik. "Bats are Pollinators not Pests." Nature Watch. http://habitatnews.nus.edu.sg/pub/naturewatch/text/a062b.htm (accessed on July 5, 2004).

"Malaysian Bat Conservation." EarthWatch Institute. http://www.earthwatch.org/expeditions/kingston/meetthescientists.html (accessed on July 5, 2004).

"Naked Bat (Cheiromeles torquatus)." The Forest Department: Sarawak, Malaysia. http://www.forestry.sarawak.gov.my/forweb/wildlife/mgmt/tpa/nbat.htm (accessed on July 5, 2004).

Myers, P. "Family Molossidae (Free-tailed Bats)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Molossidae.html (accessed on July 5, 2004).

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