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All Creatures,

Episode 187: New Zealand’s short-tailed bats

October 13, 2020

With over 1400 bat species around the planet, we decided to cover New Zealand’s only native land mammals. Prior to humans, there were only 3 species of mammals, all bats. Once humans arrived, other mammals were introduced like mice, rats, stouts, possums and others. These introduced mammals have been devastating to New Zealand’s native wildlife, to include their bats. Join us this week as we cover a very unique species from one of the world’s most unique ecosystems.

Short-tailed Bat History

The earliest bat fossils date back to 52 million years ago. They were found in the United States in the state of Wyoming. This early bat was more like today’s macrobats, like the flying fox. These early bats could not fly per se, but rather glided. It wasnt until much later that bats were able to sustain flight.

Within New Zealand there were 3 bat species:

  • Lesser Short-tailed Bat (Mystacina tuberculata)
  • Greater Short-tailed Bat (Mystacina robusta)
  • Long-tailed Bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus)

Today the Lesser Short-tailed Bat and the Long-tailed Bat are the only remaining bat species. It is believed the Greater Short-tailed bat is now extinct. It was last sited in New Zealand in 1967.

There are over 1400 bat species from 18 Families around the world. Nearly all bat species are threatened with extinction. This is a potentially devastating consequence of this Earth’s mass extinction event we are currently in. Bats are extremely important to our ecosystems and they are in desperate need of our conservation efforts.

Here is an excellent article detailing the ecological important of bats 

Short-tailed Bat Physiology

These are microbats and thus are quite small. Short-tailed bats are slightly larger than a human thumb. They weigh on average 15 grams and have a body length of 2.8 inches (7 cm). Their wingspan is as much as 11 inches (30 cm).

Most bat species live up to 20 years in the wild. Some are thought to live over 30 years.

The diet of Short-tailed Bats consists of fruit, nectar, pollen and most importantly, insects. They also are important pollinators of the woodrose plant.

One of the most interesting aspects of Short-tailed Bats is they spend a lot of time on the ground. They forage and even will roost on the ground. This has made them susceptible to predation from invasive mammals. In response, New Zealand is working hard to protect their native wildlife, to include their bat species.

You can read about their efforts HERE

Short-tailed Bat Conservation

The Lesser Short-tailed Bat is classified as vulnerable. The following  2009 paper on New Zealand Bat Conservation, which can be read HERE details the conservation status of all their bat species.

 

Organization

Lubee Bat Conservancy 

 

 

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