Fruit bats in the genus Pteropus include the world's largest bat - the greater flying fox - which can have a wingspan of 180cm. They cannot echolocate, but don't really need to as their food (fruit and nectar) doesn't try to escape and because they roost in trees not in the pitch black of caves. Their eyesight alone is perfectly good enough for navigation. Fruit bats also have a very good sense of smell for detecting flowers and fruit.
Scientific name: Pteropus
A colony of the world's largest bats surges out of the canopy.
As the expedition journeys along the river, the boat's engines disturb a colony of flying foxes roosting in the tree tops. Flying foxes are the largest bats on the planet. Living in huge colonies flying foxes (or fruit bats) feed exclusively on fruit. By spreading the seeds in their faeces, the bats are responsible for the continued diversity of the forest, often dispersing the seeds for miles around.
Night shots of fruit bats fighting over their patch of figs.
Infra-red footage sheds light on fruit bats as they feed in fig trees at night. Using specially adapted thumbs like claws, these giant fruit bats can easily get around the branches of their favourite fruit tree, testing the ripeness of the fruits with their mouths before they eat them. The noise and commotion in the branches is caused by individuals squabbling over the figs, totally unaffected by the filming underneath. The bats are a vital part of the rainforest ecosystem, feeding on fruits and dispersing their seeds over 30 miles away.
The shading illustrates the diversity of this group - the darker the colour the greater the number of species. Data provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
Bats of the genus Pteropus, belonging to the megabat suborder, Megachiroptera, are the largest bats in the world. They are commonly known as the fruit bats or flying foxes among other colloquial names. They live in the tropics and subtropics of Asia (including the Indian subcontinent), Australia, islands off East Africa (but not mainland Africa), and a number of remote oceanic islands in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans. There are at least 60 extant species in this genus.
The oldest ancestors of the genus Pteropus to be unearthed appear in the fossil record almost exactly as they are today, the only notable differences being early flight adaptations such as a tail for stabilizing. The oldest megachiropteran is dated at around 35 million years ago, but the preceding gap in the fossil record makes their true lineage unknown.
Characteristically, all species of flying foxes only feed on nectar, blossom, pollen, and fruit, which explains their limited tropical distribution. They do not possess echolocation, a feature which helps the other suborder of bats, the microbats, locate and catch prey such as insects in mid-air. Instead, smell and eyesight are very well-developed in flying foxes. Feeding ranges can reach up to 40 miles. When it locates food, the flying fox "crashes" into foliage and grabs for it. It may also attempt to catch hold of a branch with its hind feet, then swing upside down – once attached and hanging, the fox draws food to its mouth with one of its hind feet or with the clawed thumbs at the top of its wings.
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