Lesser False Vampire Bat (Megaderma spasma)


The lesser false vampire bat, Megaderma spasma, is a bat found in South Asia and Southeast Asia from Sri Lanka and India in the west to Indonesia and the Philippines in the east. They live in caves and tree hollows. They are insectivorous. The Lesser False Vampire Bat has a wingspan of up to 30 centimetres (12 in) and have a head-and-body length of around 10 centimetres (3.9 in). Their forearms are normally around 7 centimetres (2.8 in). Sometimes called the yellow-winged bat, the lesser vampire bat has yellowish veins through the wing, and when the wings are spread with light behind, they are given a prominent yellow/orange tinge. Their body colour ranges from grey-brown to blue-brown. Lesser False Vampire Bats live in rock crevices, caves, foliage and hollow trees, depending on availability. Megaderma spasma is from the order Chiroptera and family Megadermatidae which comprises four genera and five species. M. spasma also known as lesser false vampire. Its type locality was in Indonesia, Molucca Islands and Ternate. There are two specimens of M. spasma collected in Sarawak Museum Unimas, one from Niah and another one from batu 16, Ulu Gombak. M. spasma was distributed in India to Indochina and Malay peninsula, Sri Lanka, Andaman Islands, Sumatra, Borneo, Mollucas, Philippines, Sulawesi and other Indonesian islands. In Borneo, it can found in Sepilok, Darvel Bay area in Sabah, Niah and Kuching in Sarawak, upper S. Kapuas in West and upper S. Tengah in South Kalimantan It is most closely related to the Greater False Vampire Bat, which is the only other species in the genus Megaderma. M. spasma has fur pale grey to grey-brown in colour. Its nose leaf has long dorsal lobe with stiffened central ridge and broad convex flaps on the sides. Its ears are very large, joined at the base and it has no visible tail. Its echolocation pulses are short, low in density and broadband and its large ears are sensitive to echoes returning from their pulses and also sensitive to the sounds that prey generates.M. spasma usually roosts in groups in caves, pits, building, and hollow trees. M. spasma favours grasshoppers and moths but sometimes they eat small vertebrates including other bats. They have well developed, forward-pointing eyes and can locate prey visually. M. spasma usually roosts in a group of 330 individuals. Their ecological importance may be both positive and negative to humans. They eat some insects which harm human crops, but they may carry and transmit certain diseases. in the field, false vampires can be identified primarily by their large, rounded ears, which are joined at the base. Closer inspection reveals a tragus which is bifurcate (the tragus is the pointed structure inside the ear), and a nose leaf comprising a long lobe stiffened by a central ridge.  The fur is grey to brown, and the short tail does not extend outside the interfemoral membrane.

Habitat and Ecology:

In South Asia, this species is found in humid areas and dense tropical moist forest. It roosts in small colonies in caves, old and disused buildings, temples, lofts of thatched huts, tiled roofs, hollows in large trees and disused mines (Molur et al. 2002). It has a low and fast flight and feeds on Lepidopterans, coleopterans, hymenopterans and other insects but does not feed on vertebrates. One young is born between April to the month of June (Bates and Harrision 1997). Rarely occurs in the same location with M. lyra. Individuals hang separately until disturbed, when they huddle together (S. Molur pers. obs.). In the Philippines, it is found in lowland primary and secondary forest (Heaney et al. 1991). Known to roost in caves, tree-hollows, and hollow logs (Taylor 1934; Lawrence 1939; Rabor 1986; Ingle 1992; Rickart et al. 1993; Lepiten 1995). On Palawan, the species occurs in bamboo thickets, secondary forest, and primary forest (Esselstyn et al. 2004).
Systems: Terrestrial

Range Description:

This species is very widely distributed over much of South Asia and Southeast Asia. In South Asia, it is predominantly distributed in the Western Ghats and northeastern parts of India, and in Sri Lanka. It is known from Bangladesh (Khulna division), India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal) and Sri Lanka (Eastern, Southern and Western provinces) (Molur et al. 2002) In Southeast Asia, it ranges throughout virtually the entire mainland, and most of insular Southeast Asia, including the major islands of Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Halmahera (all to Indonesia), Borneo (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia), and throughout Philippines except for the Batanes/Babuyan region. There are records in the Philippines for Biliran, Bohol, Busuanga, Catanduanes, Cebu, Dinagat, Leyte, Luzon (Abra [Lawrence 1939)], Aurora, Camarines Sur, Isabela, Laguna Province [Taylor 1934; Ingle 1992], Rizal provinces), Mindanao (Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental [Sanborn 1952], Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Sur provinces), Mindoro, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Polillo, Siquijor (Heaney et al. 1998). In South Asia this species has been recorded up to an elevation of 1,600 m asl.
Countries: Native:
Bangladesh; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Malaysia; Myanmar; Philippines; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Vietnam


It is a common species in South Asia. In the Philippines, the species is widespread and locally common to uncommon in primary and secondary forest (Heaney et al. 1998). It is always encountered in small groups, though sometimes cumulative numbers are in the hundreds (L. Heaney, Esselstyn, and Balete pers. comm. 2006).
Population Trend: Unknown

Major Threat(s):

 Over much of the species range there are no major threats to populations as a whole. In Southeast Asia, there are localized threats to caves, especially due to guano mining and limestone quarrying. In South Asia, the primary forest habitats of this species are under threat, usually deforested for timber, firewood and agricultural purposes (Molur et al. 2002). Roosts in large hollow trees and old buildings are under threat due to human interference from being cut down or broken down or cleaned up. Populations in some areas are also under threat from being exploited for medicinal purposes where the bat oil is used for massaging ailing newborns and infants (S. Molur pers. obs.).

 Conservation Actions:

In South Asia, there are no direct conservation measures in place, however, the species may occur in many protected areas, but the few protected areas it has currently been recorded from include Tadoba Tiger Reserve, Melghat Tiger Reserve, Pench National Park in Maharashtra and Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal. It is presumably present within a number of protected areas in Southeast Asia. In South Asia, further studies are needed into the distribution, abundance, reproduction and ecology of this species. Populations should be monitored to record changes in abundance and distribution. Habitat maintenance, conservation and restoration are needed. Public awareness activities are needed to mitigate threats to this taxon (Molur et al. 2002).