December 28, 2010

Little Red Flying Fox

<em>Pteropus scapulatus</em>

Little red flying foxes are tree-dwelling bats. In daytime they can be seen roosting in giant camps that may include as many as a million individuals. The bats are indeed efficient fliers, as their name suggests, but time in the trees has also made them excellent climbers. Little red flying foxes use their feet and jointed thumbs to move nimbly about treetop branches. Despite the old “blind as a bat” axiom these and other flying foxes have excellent senses of both sight and smell, which enable them to find plenty of their favored foods.

Little red flying foxes are pollinators, like bees, and thus critical to the health and reproduction of flowering tree species. They are known to haunt many different habitats, including swamps, mangroves, and bamboo stands. Eucalyptus trees seem to be their favorite—they follow the trees’ flowering over great distances and farther into the Australian interior than any other bat species.

In fact, these flying foxes are rather nomadic as a rule. They migrate seasonally from rain forests to arid or coastal areas—roosting wherever their favored flowers and fruits are in season at any given time.

The main threat to these bats is the loss of trees and thus the flowers and fruits on which they depend. Little red flying foxes remain relatively common, however, and are actually regarded as pests by some farmers because they will feed in orchards when other food sources run short.

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