An Old Man With Such a Bite!

Our mist netting session in Bladen Nature Reserve turned up something interesting last week… the weird looking wrinkle-faced bat.

A face full of wrinkles is precisely what gives this bat it’s name: Centurio meaning ‘a hundred’ and senex ‘old man’, obviously the biologist naming this bat thought it looked like a hundred year-old man.

The wrinkled faced bat is distinguished by its naked face with notorious skin folds (image left, this individual is a female).

The wrinkle-faced bat (Centurio senex), besides possessing a face full of skin folds, has the greatest known bite force of any bat (in relation to it’s head size). A strong bite gives this bat the ability to consume hard fruits when other resources are limited. A study by Dumont and colleagues (2009) found that C. senex achieves it’s hard bite partly by having an exceptionally short and wide skull.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ‘wrinkles’ on this bat’s face are larger and more numerous in males than in females, which might hint that their function is linked with attracting a partner – that is, the more wrinkles, the more attractive. Another interesting characteristic of the wrinkle-faced bat is a large, retractable skin fold on its neck, which can be extended to cover part of its face. Researchers still don’t understand the exact function of this mask.

Due to its wide distribution this species is not classified as endangered on the IUCN Red List, however many researchers point out that it is a rare species and is difficult to find in large numbers at any given location (Santos-Moreno et al., 2009). Researchers also warn this species is vulnerable to habitat perturbation (Galindo-Gonzalez, 2004). Owing to its rarity little is known about its feeding, roosting or reproductive behaviour.

Due to its impressive look and its great biting force, the wrinkle-faced bat is a unique animal that is worth conserving. Additionally, because of its frugivorous diet, this bat transports plant seeds to different locations, contributing to the natural regeneration of Belizean forests, a very important task bats carry out for us every night!




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