FALSE VAMPIRE BATS – Megadermatidae



False vampire bats are medium-sized to large bats with a head and body length of 2.6 to 5.5 inches (6.5 to 14.0 centimeters). Their wingspans can reach 3 feet (1 meter). The Australian false vampire bat, also called the Australian ghost bat, is among the largest of the microchiropteran (my-kro-keer-OP-ter-an) bats. Microchiroptera is one of the two suborders of bats and includes most of the bats in the world.

False vampire bats have large ears joined by a band of skin across the forehead and noseleafs, which are fleshy protrusions from the nose. The heart-nosed bats have a leaf-like nose that is heart-shaped.

Megadermatids (meg-ah-der-MAT-ids; bats in the family Megadermatide) have a tail that is either short or absent. These bats typically have relatively short and broad wings.

Their fur tends to be long and gray in color, although the yellow-winged bats have bright yellow or orange wings and ears, with bluish fur. False vampire bats have twenty-six or twenty-eight teeth. The flesh-eating, or carnivorous, megadermatids, such as the Australian false vampire bats, have sharp and strong canine teeth for tearing flesh and crushing bones.


Megadermatids are found in Africa, Asia, east India, Philippines, and Australia.


Megadermatids live in open, dry habitats in Australia, and in open woodlands. They also live in the very dry or arid areas of Africa and India. Typical habitats for heart-nosed bats include dry lowlands, coastal strip habitats, and sometimes river valleys.


Many of the megadermatid species are also known as false vampire bats because people mistakenly believed that they eat blood. Megadermatids eat insects or small vertebrates (animals with backbones), and none of them feed only on blood. The carnivorous species, such as the Australian false vampire bats, eat small vertebrates that include fish, frogs, lizards, birds, mice, or other bats. The Asian false vampire bats have a diverse diet, feeding on everything from insects, spiders, fish, birds, and frogs, to rodents and even occasionally smaller bats. False vampire bats are among the top predators (hunters) of the forest, hunting mainly birds, other bats, and rodents.

Yellow-winged bats eat insects on the ground or while flying. They feed on large and small insects, including moths and butterflies, grasshoppers, beetles, flies, and mosquitoes.


Megadermatids make echolocation (eck-oh-loh-KAY-shun) calls through the nose. Echolocation is a technique of sending out sounds and then using the reflection or echoes of the sound to detect objects. In bats these sounds are too high-pitched for humans to hear. Megadermatids use their large noseleaf to focus the sound outwards.

Megadermatids roost (settle or rest) in caves, rock crevices, buildings, and trees. Roosting habits vary from solitary to colonial. The Asian false vampire bats roost in caves, buildings, and hollow trees in small groups, although one particularly large colony of nearly 2,000 was reported in India. Eating a wide range of foods from insects to birds, these bats maneuver (mahNOO-ver) well as they snatch their food.

False vampire bats commonly kill the prey (animals hunted for food) by biting the head and crushing the skull. False vampires share their prey with other members of the family group, consisting of a pair of adults and their non-breeding young. The Australian false vampire bat drops on small mammals from above, and envelops them with its wings before biting the head and neck. They carry their prey to a high point or back to the roost. Heart-nosed bats hang upside down on a low perch while they scan the area for their meals. This bat eats beetles, centipedes, scorpions, and small bats. From its perch, typically 10 to 16 feet (3 to 5 meters) above ground, this bat twists its body 180°, using its eyes and ears to search for prey. When it spots a meal, the bat swoops down and snatches the prey, carrying it back to its perch. There, the bat removes the legs and wings before eating the body.

Some megadermatids, such as the yellowwinged bats, appear to be monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), meaning that the male and female pair up, which is unusual in bats and mammals. Heart-nosed bats mate in monogamous pairs for the breeding season. They make an effort to keep the same mate during the following breeding seasons. Mated pairs have a breeding site that the male defends. Prior to foraging for their food in the evening, the male of the heart-nosed and false vampire bats sing from perches.

Megadermatids give birth to a single offspring during each breeding period. In yellow-winged bats, following a gestation (pregnancy) of about three months, most births of the single offspring occur in April. False vampire bats also have a gestation period of about three months, and give birth at the beginning of the rainy season. Sometimes, an older member of the family may remain to sit with the young while the adults hunt.


People are destroying the natural habitat of megadermatids, causing many of these species’ populations to decrease.


The IUCN lists the heart-nosed bat as being Near Threatened, not currently threatened, but may become so; and the Australian false vampire bat as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.