Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus)

The Large Flying Fox (Pteropus vampyrus), also known as the Greater Flying Fox, Malaysian Flying Fox, Kalang or Kalong, is a species of megabat in the family Pteropodidae. Like the other members of the genus Pteropus, or the Old World fruit bats, it feeds exclusively on fruits. It is noted for being the largest member of the bat family by wingspan. It, as with all other Old World fruit bats, lacks the ability to echolocate. It should not be confused with Acerodon jubatus which is also large. Large flying foxes inhabit tropical forests and swamps. They occur primarily in secondary forests and use agricultural areas during forging bouts. Populations also occur on oceanic islands. During the day, groups often roost in large trees. Roost sites are often used for many years and trees become stripped of bark and foliage by the bats' sharp claws. Roosting trees are often found in mangrove forests, coconut groves, and mixed fruit orchards. Studies in Subic Bay, Philippines have shown that foraging locations range between 0.4 and 12 km from the roost. They prefer undisturbed forests in lowlands, beaches, and mangroves, for roosting and select against disturbed and agricultural areas. Large flying foxes are commonly found in riparian areas. (Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010; Bates, et al., 2011; Mildenstein, et al., 2005; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)

Description.

HB: 300-340; T: None; FA: 190-210; E:40; HF:50; W: 645-1100g

The large flying fox is among the largest species of bats. It weighs 0.6 (1.3 lbs) to 1.1 kg (2.4 lbs) and has a wingspan of 1.5 m (4.9 ft) on average. As with all mega bats, it has a fox-like face, hence its name. It lacks a tail and has pointed ears. The hairs on much of its body is long and woolly but are shorter and more erect on the upper back. The mantle hairs tend to be the longest. The colour and texture of the coat differ between sexes and age classes. Males tend to have slightly stiffer and thicker coats than females. Immature individuals are almost all dull gray-brown. Young have a dark-coloured mantle that becomes lighter in males when they mature. The head has hairs that range in colour mahogany-red and orange-ochreous to blackish. The ventral areas are brown or blackish, tingled with chocolate, gray or silver. The mantle can vary from pale dirty-buff to orange yellow, while the chest is usually dark-golden brown or dark russet. The large flying fox has a large and robust skull. The dental formula is2.2.1.1over 2.3.2.3 . It has a total of 34 teeth. The large flying fox's wing are short and somewhat rounded at the tips. This allows them to fly slowly but with great manoeuvrability. Wing membranes are only haired near the body.Pteropus vampyrus is one of the largest bats in the world. Forearm length ranges from 180 to 220 mm, mean wingspan is 1.5 m, and body mass ranges from 0.6 to 1.1 kg. It has long pointed ears and a dog-like or fox-like face and head. Pelage varies in colour and texture with age and sex . Upper dorsal fur is short and stiff, with longer, woollier fur on the Venter. Head and upper body are covered with a dark mantle ranging in colour from mahogany-red to black, and the Venter is often darker than the rest of the body. Its wings have short rounded tips. Except for parts close to the body and the edge of the wing membrane, wing membranes lack fur. Young are born with dark skin and fur but become paler as they develop. Males have thicker and stiffer pelage than females and glandular neck tufts with dark bases. Pteropus vampyrus is different from most Pteropus in that it has darker underparts and a dark mantle. For example, P. giganteus and P. lylei have pale underparts that contrast with the darker dorsal pelage. Pelage colour occasionally varies as a few P. vampyrus specimens have lighter mantles, and some have a gray or silver Venter. (Hollister, 1913; Kunz and Jones, 2000;

Large flying foxes have robust skulls, with a nearly complete orbit and a thick, wide zygomatic arch. The postorbital processes reaches more than halfway to the zygomatic arch. The dental formula is 2/2, 1/1, 3/3, 2/3 for a total of 34 teeth. Upper canines have a prominent anterior groove and a smaller groove on the inner surface. (Hollister, 1913; Kunz and Jones, 2000.

Ecology

The large flying fox ranges from Thailand to the Malay Peninsula, stretching to the Philippines in the east and Sumatra, Java, Borneo and Timor in the south. In certain areas, the bat prefers coastal regions, but it can also be found at elevation up to 1,370 m. Flying foxes inhabit as primary, mangrove forest, coconut groves, mixed fruit orchards and a number of other habitats. During the day, trees in mangrove forests and coconut groves may be used as roosts. In Malaysia, flying foxes prefer in lowland habitats below 365m. In Borneo, flying foxes inhabit the coastal areas by move to nearby islands to feed on fruit. Flying fox roost in the thousands (maximum). One colony was recorded numbering around 2,000 individuals in a mangrove forest in Timor. In general, mangrove roosts have lower numbers of resting bats compared to lowland roost sites which could mean that mangroves forests are only used temporarily. This species primarily feeds on flower, nectar and fruit. When all three food item are available, flower and nectar are preferred. The pollen, nectar and flower of coconut and durian trees as well as the fruits of rambutan, fig and langsat trees are consumed. Flying foxes will also eat mangoes and bananas. With fruit, the flying fox prefers the pulp, and slices open the rind to get it. With durian tree flowers, the flying fox can lick up the nectar without doing apparent damage to the flower.Behavior Large flying foxes are highly social and vocal animals that live in groups sometimes numbering in the thousands. They prefer to roost in tall trees that rise above the forest canopy. Roost sites are often loud and may include several species. Large flying foxes are nocturnal, leaving the roost at around sunset and returning at dawn. Some individuals fly up to 50 km each night to reach their feeding grounds. They often fly the same route to a feeding ground, returning until all resources are exhausted. They form groups ranging from 2 to 50 at feeding grounds. They usually land on the tips of the branches and fall into a position with their head down to feed. (Kunz and Jones, 2000; Oakland Zoo, 2011; Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, 2010)

Large flying foxes are highly territorial and communicate ownership by spreading their wings, growling, or making other vocalizations. The presence of flowers on trees appears to encourage territorial behaviour. They are often met with hostile vocalizations and aggressive behaviour that promotes spacing between roosting individuals. Large flying foxes rest by hanging upside down with wings wrapped around their bodies. During the warmest periods of the day, they sometimes cool themselves by fanning their wings, licking their bodies, or by panting. Roost activity increases as the day progresses and may include short flights around the roost. (Kunz and Jones, 2000;

Behaviour and life history

Colonies of large flying foxes fly in a scattered stream. They may fly to their feeding grounds for up to 50 km in one night. Vocalization are not made during flight. Large flocks fission into family or feeding groups upon arrival at feeding grounds. Flying foxes may circle a fruit tree before landing, and usually land on the tips of branches in an upright position, then falling into a head-down position from which they feed. Feeding aggregations tend to be very noisy.

Flowers on trees are the basis territories in this species. Territorial behaviour includes growling and the spreading of wings. During antagonistic behaviour, individuals maintain spacing with wrists/thumbs sparing, bites, and loud vocalizations. When moving to a suitable resting place after landing, an individual may fight with conspecifics along the way. A roosting flying fox is positioned upside down with its wings wrapped up. When it gets too warm, a flying fox fans itself with its wings. Roosting bats are restless until mid morning.

Female large flying fox gestations are at their highest between November to January in Peninsular Malaysia, but some births occur in other months. In Thailand, gestations may take place during the same period with young being born in March or early April. Females apparently enter partus during April and May in the Philippines. This species usually gives birth to only one young. For the first days, the mothers carry their young but leave them at the roost when they go on their foraging trips. The young are weaned by 23 months. Unlike other pteropods, which have fused horns on the baculum, Pteropus vampyrus has a saddle-shaped baculum. It ranges from 4.5 to 8.2 mm and is wider than it is long. Females typically give birth to only one offspring per year. Synchronous birthing occurs within each population, and timing depends on local geography and seasonality. In peninsular Malaysia, mating peaks from November to January. In Thailand, birthing peaks during March and April and in the Philippines it peaks during April and May. In captive populations, birthing peaks during May and June. Mean body mass newborns is 133g (20-30% of maternal body mass) and their forearm length is around 79.5 mm. Mothers carry their young during the first few days after parturition, then leave them at the roost during foraging bouts. Young are weaned by 2 to 3 months after birth. (Kunz and Jones, All parental care is provided by the mother, though males often help protect and defend their harem. 2000)

Status

A recent update by the IUCN has listed the species as Near Threatened and mentioned its near-vulnerable status with the following reasons:
Listed as Near Threatened because this species is in significant decline (but at a rate of probably less than 30% over ten years or three generations) because it is being over-harvested for food over much of its range, and because of ongoing degradation of its primary forest habitat, making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable under criterion A.

One threat to the large flying fox is habitat destruction. Flying fox are sometimes hunted for food and the controls on hunting seem to be unenforceable. In some areas, farmers consider flying foxes pests as they sometimes feed on their orchards.

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