The Spectral Bat (Vampyrum spectrum – which is pretty cool as scientific names go) is the biggest bat in the Americas, and the biggest carnivorous bat in the world. A properly high-ranking predator in its environment, out there in the darkness enjoying a diet that makes its insectivorous, piscivorous and frugivorous relatives look like they’re hardly even trying …
It deserves, I think, to be better known, so here’s my tiny contribution to putting that right …
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Read on below for show notes, including photos and film and links to further info on the wonderful world of meat-eating bats …
As ever, one of the best places to start looking for more info on the Spectral Bat is the IUCN Red List – although in this case there isn’t a huge amount of info because – as I said in the episode – there’s a lot we still don’t known about this animal.
This is, if you ask me, a pretty impressive looking animal:
Catching (with a mist net, of course) a Vampyrum spectrum, tagging it, tracking it to its roost and filming the roost. Cool:
And some key bits of further reading/references, for those who like such things:
Summary and intro for the key paper Observations on the Foraging Behavior and Avian Prey of the Neotropical Carnivorous Bat, Vampyrum spectrum, by Vehrencamp, Stiles and Bradbury, Journal of Mammalogy, 58(4), 1977. I won’t link to the full paper, but if you’re interested, it’s easy enough to find by googling the title.
This one is a full paper, the concise and nice little study of museum specimens to get more info on diet: Food Habits of Bats of Subfamily Vampyrinae in Brazil, also in the Journal of Mammalogy, 85(4), 2004 by Bonato, Facure and Uieda.
And moving away from the Spectral Bat, the Greater Noctule Bat eats lots of migrating birds in Europe: Bat predation on nocturnally migrating birds, Ibáñez et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 Aug 14; 98(17).
and, so that I don’t have to include this in some future update/correction episode, something I say in the episode is not entirely accurate (shock! horror!). Turns out, there’s mounting evidence that quite a few biggish bats around the world might be harvesting those poor old migrating birds: Bird predation by the birdlike noctule in Japan, Fukui et al,Journal of Mammalogy, Volume 94, Issue 3, 11 June 2013
So … should the question of what bats eat ever come up in conversation, you really can say, without fear of contradiction: “Bats eat birds!”. Probably, quite a few bats are eating quite a lot of birds.
Opening & Closing Themes: Running Waters and Acoustic Meditation by Audionautix (Jason Shaw), from audionautix.com.