Lesser Mouse-Tailed Bat (Rhinopoma hardwickei)

Description:

HB:55-75; T: 60-75; FA; 57-66; E22; HF: 15

The lesser mouse-tailed bat is, as its name suggests, a fairly small bat with a very long, mouse-like tail. In fact, it has one of the longest tails of all bats, often as long as the head and body combined. The fur on the body of the lesser mouse-tailed bat is usually brown-grey in colour, tending towards darker brown on the back and lighter grey on the underside, short and soft. . The face is furless, with beady black eyes, a flat, thin snout and a blunt nose, and the ears are large in proportion to the head. A thickened portion of skin at the end of the snout forms a nose leaf, which the bat uses as an amplifier for its echolocation calls . The long, thin tail is only partially enclosed within a flap of skin, known as the tail membrane, which aids the bat when flying; this is in contrast to many other bat species in which the tail membrane fully encloses the tail .

Biology and Ecology

The lesser mouse-tailed bat feeds primarily on insects, which are caught in flight. Its flight is rather unique amongst bats as it initially flutters its wings and then partially glides . Like most bats, the lesser mouse-tailed bat uses echolocation to locate prey and avoid obstacles, allowing it to fly in complete darkness. The ultrasound calls, which are emitted through the nostrils, consist of long, high frequency chirps (of around 32 kilohertz). Feeding as much as possible during the summer months, the lesser mouse-tailed bat builds up fat in its abdominal region in preparation for the winter, when food is scarce. During the winter season, the lesser mouse-tailed bat enters a period of dormancy (hibernation) and lives off its fat reserves .After awakening from its winter dormancy in late February, the lesser mouse-tailed bat enters its breeding season, which lasts until the middle of April . The gestation period lasts from 95 to 100 days, after which the female gives birth to a single young in June or July. The lesser mouse-tailed bat is well adapted to its arid habitat. The slit-shaped nostrils can be closed to keep out dust and sand and it is able to survive without a source of fresh water, as it obtains most of the water it requires from its food. The kidneys are also able to produce highly concentrated urine, in order to conserve precious water. Inhabits arid and semi-desert vegetation zones where suitable roosts and food are available. Recorded in semi-desert grassland with areas of Acacia scrub in oases with gardens and orchards surrounded by sandy desert and Hamada, in gorges of wades with some Tamarix and Oleanders (Nerium oleander). Roosts in dry caves, ruins, underground tunnels (including catacombs), mosques and old buildings. In summer sometimes roosts in fissures, small crevices and among boulders. The species is sedentary and it stores fat in autumn for the winter months.
Systems: Terrestrial

Range Description:

Occurs across central and northern Africa through Arabia and Southern Asia; from Morocco to India north to Israel, Palestine, Jordan Iraq and Afghanistan and south to Kenya. Presence in Myanmar based on a very old reference with no detail of location; there is doubt about its current presence. Occurs up 1,100 m asl in Morocco and Algeria.
Countries: Native:
Afghanistan; Algeria; Bangladesh; Burkina Faso; Cameroon; Chad; Djibouti; Egypt; Eritrea; Ethiopia; India; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Iraq; Israel; Jordan; Kenya; Kuwait; Libya; Mali; Mauritania; Morocco; Nepal; Niger; Nigeria; Oman; Pakistan; Saudi Arabia; Somalia; Sudan; Syrian Arab Republic; Thailand; Tunisia; Western Sahara; Yemen (Socotra)

 Population:

Appears to be particularly abundant near oases. However, both distribution and abundance are undoubtedly insufficiently investigated because the roosts and suitable habitats are often unreachable. Colonies range in size from a few individuals up to several hundred. Up to 500 individuals have been reported in colonies in Jordan (Amr 2000). Occurs with other species in the genus, in Iran it is normally found in low numbers and low densities and it feeds on coleoptera (M. Sharifi pers. comm. 2005). Assumed stable throughout the southwest Asia region (D. Kock pers. comm. 2005). Population information remains unknown for its African distribution.
Population Trend: Stable

Major Threat(s):

Human disturbance in roost sites and pesticide use against locusts are the main threats. In arid areas of Iran which can not support high numbers of colonies, they aggregate in a few large groups which increases their vulnerability (M. Sharifi pers. comm. 2005). These are not thought to be major threats to the species as a whole at present.

Conservation Actions:

No specific measures are known or are in place, but presumably occurs in protected areas across the range. A study on the impacts of pesticides is required, especially ways in which the impact might be minimised.

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