MOUSE-TAILED BATS – Rhinopomatidae



Also known as long-tailed bats, the bats in this family have a tail almost as long as their head and body. This slender, long tail is unique among all the bats. These bats are small to medium-sized, about 2 to 3.5 inches (5 to 9 centimeters), not including the tail. Their backs are generally gray-brown to dark brown, and they may be lighter on their underside.

The ears of mouse-tailed bats are rather large and connected by a band of skin across the forehead. The ears extend past the nose when they are laid forward. Their snouts have a small, rounded noseleaf, a horseshoe-shaped flap of skin around the nose.


Mouse-tailed bats are generally found in Africa and Asia, across the Sahara, from western Africa through the Middle East to India and Thailand.


Mouse-tailed bats are usually found in arid, extremely dry, regions. This can range from deserts to extremely dry woodland. They roost, rest or settle, in caves, rock clefts, wells, pyramids, and buildings.


Mouse-tailed bats eat insects, including flying ants, termites, beetles, and moths. Grzimek’s Student Animal Life As the months turn cooler the bat begins store fat, especially in the abdominal, stomach, region. These fat deposits can equal the bat’s normal body weight. During the winter months when insects are in short supply some species of mouse-tailed bats go into a type of deep sleep called torpor, and they absorb the fat deposits. During this period the bat is able to survive for several weeks without food and water. In some areas, some species migrate between summer and winter roosts.


When mouse-tailed bats roost they often hang by the thumbs as well as the feet. They emerge from their roosts at dark and begin their search for food. The small mouse-tailed bat has an unusual flight in that it rises and falls, much like some small birds. This species travels by a series of glides, some of great length, and occasionally it flutters, about 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) above the ground.

Like all bats, mouse-tailed bats are nocturnal, active at night. They use echolocation (eck-oh-loh-KAY-shun) to pinpoint, identify, and capture their prey, the animals they hunt for food. In echolocation, the bats call out a high-frequency sound in the ultrasonic ranges, which is above the sounds humans can hear.

These sound waves bounce off of objects and echoes or bounces back to the bat. The bat can then determines the location, size, distance, and speed of the object.

Mouse-tailed bats generally hunt in the open air high above ground. With small prey distributed throughout a large space, the bats must cover a large search area to find an insect. Mousetailed bats can travel up to 12 miles (20 kilometers) from their roost sites in a single night. Female bats give birth to one young annually. The young are fully grown and weaned in about six weeks. Reproduction periods of these bats depends upon where they live and their species.


Mouse-tailed bats are indirectly helpful to humans because they eat many insects that humans consider pests.


One species, MacInnes’ mouse-tailed bat, is categorized as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction in the wild due to the destruction the bat’s natural habitat. The other three species are not listed as threatened with extinction.