Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Large flying fox

Binomial name: Pteropus vampyrus, Carolus Linnaeus, 1758

The large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus), also known as the greater flying fox, Malayan flying fox, Malaysian flying fox, large fruit bat, kalang or kalong, is a southeast Asian 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, nectar and flowers (despite its scientific name). It is noted for being one of the largest bats. It, as with all other Old World fruit bats, lacks the ability to echolocate, but compensates for it with well-developed eyesight.

Description

The large flying fox is among the largest species of bat. It weighs 0.65 - 1.1 kg and has a wingspan of up to 1.5 m. As with all megabats, it has a fox-like face, hence its name. It lacks a tail and has pointed ears. The hairs on much of its body are long and wooly, but are shorter and more erect on the upper back. The mantle hairs tend to be the longest. The color 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-colored mantle that becomes lighter in males when they mature. The head has hairs that range in color from mahogany-red and orange-ochreous to blackish. The ventral areas are brown or blackish, tinged 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 is . It has a total of 34 teeth. The large flying fox's wings are short and somewhat rounded at the tips. This allows them to fly slowly, but with great maneuverability. The wing membranes are only haired near the body.

Ecology

The large flying fox ranges from Malay Peninsula, 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 elevations up to 1370 m.

Flying foxes inhabit primary forest, 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 lowland habitats below 365 m. In Borneo, they inhabit the coastal areas, but move to nearby islands to feed on fruit. Flying foxes roost in the thousands (maximum). One colony was recorded numbering around 2, 000 individuals in a mangrove forest in Timor and colonies of 10, 000-20, 000 have also been reported. In general, mangrove roosts have lower numbers of resting bats compared to lowland roost sites, which could mean mangrove forests are only used temporarily.

This species primarily feeds on flower, nectar and fruit. When all three food items are available, flowers 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 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. Vocalizations are not made during flight. Large flocks fuse 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 fall into a head-down position from which they feed. Feeding aggregations tend to be very noisy.

Flowering trees form the basis of territories in this species. Territoral behavior includes growling and the spreading of wings. During antagonistic behavior, individuals maintain spacing with wrists/thumbs sparring, 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 midmorning.

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, gestation may take place during the same period with young being born in March or early April. Females apparently give birth during April and May in the Philippines, and usually give 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 two to three months.

Status

A recent update by the IUCN has listed the species as Near Threatened and mentioned its near-vulnerable status with the following reasons:

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

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Chiroptera
Family
Pteropodidae
Genus
Pteropus
Species
Pteropus vampyrus

Common names

  • English:
    • Large flying-fox
    • Large flying fox

Synonyms

  • Pteropus kopangi, Nagamichi Kuroda (1933)
  • Pteropus malaccensis, Knud Christian Andersen (1908)
  • Pteropus natunae, Knud Christian Andersen (1908)
  • Pteropus lanensis, Edgar Alexander Mearns (1905)
  • Pteropus pteronotus, George Edward Dobson (1878)
  • Pteropus kelaarti, John Edward Gray (1870)
  • Pteropus phaiops, John Edward Gray (1870)
  • Pteropus sumatrensis, Evardus Winandus Adrianus Ludeking (1862)
  • Pteropus pluton, Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1853)
  • Pteropus funereus, Coenraad Jacob Temminck (1837)
  • Pteropus javanicus, Anselme Gaëtan Desmarest (1820)
  • Pteropus kalou, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1810)
  • Pteropus edulis, Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire (1810)
  • Pteropus celaeno, Johann Hermann (1804)
  • Pteropus nudus, Johann Hermann (1804)
  • Pteropus caninus, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1797)

Conservation status

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Near Threatened (IUCN3.1)

Range map of Pteropus vampyrus in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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