3 minute read

False Vampire Bats: Megadermatidae

Australian False Vampire Bat (macroderma Gigas): Species Account

Physical characteristics: Australian false vampire bats are among the largest of the bats. They have forearms that range from 3.7 to 4.6 inches (9.6 to 11.8 centimeters) long, and weigh 2.6 to 5 ounces (74 to 144 grams). Their head and body length is 3.9 to 5.1 inches (10 to 13 centimeters). Females are smaller than males.

These bats are also called ghost bats, because their fur is light brown to gray to almost white. In some areas, ghost bats have an ashy gray back and white underparts. These bats have wide ears that meet above the head and are fused. They have large eyes relative to their heads, along with prominent noseleafs.

Australian false vampire bats typically roost in caves and abandoned mines. (© B. G. Thomson/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Australian false vampire bats are found in northern Australia, mainly north Queensland, along the north central coast, and in the northwest.

Habitat: Australian false vampire bats live in both arid regions and rainforest areas, such as north Queensland. They typically roost in caves and abandoned mines.

Diet: The Australian false vampire bat is Australia's only carnivorous bat. These bats eat large insects, such as cockroaches, and vertebrates, such as reptiles, frogs, birds, small mammals, and other bat species.

Behavior and reproduction: Australian false vampire bats commonly hang from a branch and wait for their prey to pass on the ground below. The bats then drop down, envelop the prey with their wings and kill it by biting its head and neck. They also catch prey while in flight. Australian false vampire bats eat large amounts of food and consume much of their prey, including its flesh, bones, teeth, fur, small feathers, and the exoskeletons of insects.

Australian false vampire bats move to the warmer northern Australia area when the weather becomes cooler, and then back to the cooler southern areas when the weather becomes warm. These bats do use echolocation, yet they appear to capture their prey with their extremely sensitive hearing and vision. Their echolocation calls are less than one millisecond long. Australian false vampire bats roost alone or in small groups. During the breeding season, for the most part, females gather in colonies, while males gather into their own colonies. Yet some studies have found that some males are always present with the females. There are typically fewer than 100 bats in a group.

Australian false vampire bats generally mate in April or May and gestate for about three months. The females bear a single offspring. Mothers stay with their young and also fly with them to forage (search) for food during the first several weeks of life. Both sexes reach reproductive maturity at about their second year of life.

Austalian false vampire bats and people: Australian Aborigines, the early inhabitants of Australia, have a spiritual connection to the Austalian false vampire bats. Mining operations are destroying their roosting sites, causing a decline in their population. These bats are also extremely sensitive to any disturbance. People that enter a ghost-bat cave colony may cause the group to become nervous and leave.

Conservation status: Australian false vampire bats have declined in population because people have destroyed their habitats. They are categorized as Vulnerable by the IUCN. ∎



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. "Australian Giant False Vampire Bat, or Ghost Bat." Walker's Mammals of the World 5.1 Online. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walker/chiroptera/chiroptera.megadermatidae.macroderma.html (accessed on July 4, 2004).

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.

Web sites:

"Bat." MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2004. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761557637/Bat.html (accessed on July 4, 2004).

French, Barbara. "False Vampires and Other Carnivores." Bat Conservation International, Inc. http://www.batcon.org/batsmag/v15n2-5.html (accessed on July 4, 2004).

Hester, L., and P. Myers. "Family Megadermatidae (False Vampire Bats)." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Megadermatidae.html (accessed on July 4, 2004).

"Yellow-winged bat—Lavia frans." American Zoo. http://www.americazoo.com/goto/index/mammals/63.htm (accessed on July 4, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsFalse Vampire Bats: Megadermatidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Megadermatids And People, Australian False Vampire Bat (macroderma Gigas): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, CONSERVATION STATUS