What creature recently took social media by storm (allegedly), enjoys feasting at night, and is an under-appreciated pollinator?
The Golden-Capped Fruit Bat! Also known as the giant golden-crowned flying fox (read on to find out why).
The Megabat, and Fox?
The golden-capped fruit bat is one of 150 species of megabats. Megabats live throughout Australia, and parts of Africa, Asia, and South America, but the golden-capped fruit bat only exists in the Philippines. The “flying fox” nickname comes from the color of their fur and their large-eyed faces that cause them to resemble foxes, despite having no fox relatives.
A (Misidentified) Social Media Icon
When a Twitter user tweeted the photo below along with the caption, “Remember when I told y’all about the Philippines having human-sized bats? Yeah, this is what I was talking about,” Twitter users were astounded. The tweet has received over 500,000 impressions, going viral and catching the attention of multiple news sites.
However, many news outlets and social media users misidentified the megabat in the picture as the golden-capped fruit bat. As you can see, this bat does not have the iconic golden-brown fur, so the picture is likely of a different megabat. Remember to not believe everything you see on the internet!
These bats are large, but human-sized bat may be a bit of an exaggeration (well, depending on the human). Although they only grow to about a foot in length and weigh about 3 pounds, which is normal for megabats, the golden-capped fruit bat’s wingspan reaches up to 1.7 meters or 5.58 feet- making them one of the biggest bats in the world! These enormous wings come in handy in the island heat. To cool themselves down, golden-capped fruit bats will fan themselves while hanging upside down on trees (or house porches). If that technique doesn’t work, they will lick themselves. As the saliva evaporates, their bodies cool down for a short while, then the process is repeated.
Don’t Let the Size Fool You
If you’ve been an avid Featured Creature reader (and we thank you if you are!), you’ll know that here at Bio4Climate we don’t get scared by big claws, teeth, or wingspans.
Despite their size, these megabats are harmless to humans. As dedicated vegetarians, golden-capped fruit bats stick to eating fruits, especially figs, and are constantly on the search for some nectar. This diet makes them important, and often underrated, pollinators. As they feast on different fruits from every corner of the island, they spread seeds.
All pollinators are essential for keeping our food system and ecosystems intact. Flowers and crops rely on them for reproduction and, in turn, humans and other species rely on pollinators for our food sources to stay abundant. While bees may get all of the credit (and we do love bees), bat pollinators are working just as hard to keep our food sources alive.
Thank you, nighttime pollinators.
How are human activities impacting Golden-capped Fruit Bats?
The golden-capped fruit bat is highly specialized for Filipino ecosystems. They tend to forage in old growth forests rather than disturbed habitats. They would rather fly 10 miles to get to an intact forest than settle for closer, degraded lands. These preferences, along with the fact that they only have one pup per year, leaves them vulnerable to our world’s changing conditions. Although golden-capped fruit bats are widespread throughout Filipino islands, their individual populations are small. They have limited space due to high deforestation rates leading to extensive habitat loss.
To preserve precious pollinators, ecosystem restoration is the best way forward. With every acre of degraded land restored to its previous potential, we provide a place for megabats and other creatures to flourish once again.