MOUSTACHED BATS FACTS
Moustached bats are named for their moustache-like distinctive feature. Above their upper lip, they have tufts of stiff hair. Their lips are large, with flaps and folds of skin on the bottom. When their mouth is open it appears to form a funnel. There are three common names for species in this family: moustached bats, ghost-faced bats, and naked-backed bats.
These bats are relatively small to medium size. The size of these bats’ forearms range in length from approximately 1.4 inches (3.6 centimeters) to 2.6 inches (6.6 centimeters).
Moustached bats have a small bump on their nose and their eyes are relatively small. All bats in this family have a tail. Ears vary in size and shape but always have a tragus (TRAY-gus), meaning a flap of skin at the bottom of the external ear. In some species, the wings connect to the body at a point high along the middle of the back, making the surface of the back appear naked. These bats are commonly referred to as nakedbacked bats. Ghost-faced bats can be easily identified by the folds of skin that reach from ear to ear, across the chin.
The fur of moustached bats can be gray, bright orange, brown, or reddish brown. Within species, individuals can vary widely in color. The fur color of some species in this family may change in different seasons. Fur in this family is short, fine, and thick.
Moustached bats are found from the southern United States, including Arizona and southern Texas, through to Mexico, Central America, and South America to Brazil, and much of the West Indies.
These bats generally live in tropical (hot and humid) habitats below 10,000 feet (3,000 meters). They live in the rainforest, forest, and in open areas. They generally roost in caves, mines, tunnels, and the hollows of trees. Some of these bats have been found in houses.
Moustached bats feed on a wide range of insects, including flies, beetles, moths, and mosquitoes.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Moustached bats generally roost together in large colonies. Observations of the Parnell’s moustached bats have found approximately 5,000 individuals roosting together.
Moustached bats, like all bats, are nocturnal, meaning they are active at night. At night they emerge to forage for food by using echolocation, the detection of an object by listening to reflected sounds that are called out. They catch their prey (animals hunted for food) while flying. In forested habitats, these bats often search for prey, animals they hunt for food, along trails and roads and fly low, within 3.3 feet (1 meter) of the ground. The wings of these bats are associated with the ability to maneuver, fly rapidly, and remain in the air for long periods of time.
At the beginning of the rainy season, females give birth to a single young each year. Gestation (pregnancy) lasts approximately sixty days.
MOUSTACHED BATS AND PEOPLE
These bats can eat large numbers of nocturnal insects, including many that are harmful to crops and ones that are considered pests, such as mosquitoes. Humans are causing the loss of population among some species of these bats by destroying their habitat.
The IUCN lists two species as Near Threatened, meaning they are not currently threatened, but could become so. MacLeay’s moustached bat is listed as Vulnerable, meaning it faces a high risk of extinction.