The Strange Face of the Proboscis Bat

If there is one specimen that embodies the traditional depiction of the arcane bat, shrouded in mysterious intent, herald of the dark and all the terrors of the night then Rhynchonycteris naso is not it. These funny little furry friends have a mild nature, a sociable character and a hilarious appearance. After being caught many specimens don’t bother flying away and will sit in your hand pondering their next move. Or they try and scuttle backwards up your arm. Their teeth aren’t big enough to puncture human skin, not that they really bother to try. In the end they have to be put on branches where they recover from the ordeal of being captured for about ten minutes before flapping off to find some tasty insects.

They catch these insects predominantly over water and are widespread throughout Central and northern South America, usually below 300m (Plumpton et al., 1992) where lakes and rivers are accessible. They don’t usually live in groups of over forty, with about a dozen being common but instances of a hundred have been known. They will live sociably in these groups with males and females but can breed at any time of the year when they will form harem groups.

R. naso are known to vibrate rhythmically in groups. As their roosts are usually in old tree trunks or on branches it is wondered whether this movement helps them to avoid detection by predators when in windy conditions (Knörnschild et al., 2009)

They are not caught often due to their excellent camouflage and small size (up to 6cm) but one animal that has been seen preying on them is the orb weaving spider, Argiope savignyi (Timm and Losilla, 2007), who has been seen taking a whole day to envelope an R. naso in its web. Other predators include hawks, falcons and egrets.

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