PARNELL’S MOUSTACHED BAT – Pteronotus parnellii


Bats facts: Like other bats in this family, Parnell’s moustached bat has distinctive stiff hairs around its mouth. The fur color is medium to dark brown. These bats are relatively small with forearms ranging from 2.2 to 2.5 inches (5.5 to 6.3 centimeters). They have wingspan of about 13.4 to 13.8 inches (34 to 35 centimeters).

Geographic range: These bats are found throughout the Greater Antilles, Central America, southern Mexico, northern South America east of the Andes, northern Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, and the Guianas.

Where do bats live: Parnell’s moustached bats roost in mines and caves, generally in large chambers and passageways far from the cave entrance. These bats live in habitats ranging from arid to humid, tropical forests.

What do bats eat: Parnell’s moustached bats eat insects, primarily beetles and moths.

Behavior and reproduction: Parnell’s moustached bats are extremely active. They are most active in the early evening. Observations of these bats in Mexico saw them emerging from their roost shortly after sunset. Some of the bats returned within one and a half hours, but most appeared to remain away from the roost for five to seven hours. The total number of bats in the cavern system was estimated at 400,000 to 800,000 individuals. It was estimated that these bats consumed between 4,190 and 8,380 pounds (1,900 to 3,805 kilograms) of insects each night.

These bats have a body temperature that varies with the environment, called heterothermic (hetur-oh-THER-mic). When they are feeding, their body temperature remains high. When at rest, their body temperature and heart rate lower, thus conserving energy. When their heart rate slows down to conserve energy, the bats are going into torpor. Protected in their roost, Parnell’s moustached bats can go into torpor from several hours to several months. If they go into a longterm torpor during the winter months it is considered hibernation.

These bats catch their prey while flying and can detect insects through dense vegetation. They are the only species of New World (North America, Central America, and South America) bat to have developed specialized echolocation calls. Structures within the ears of these bats work with the nerve cells to allow the bat to hear narrow and specific frequencies. This distinctive call enables the bat to sense the speed things move at, and thus relate its hearing to moving objects.

The only time males and females roost together during the year is when they are mating. Females have one offspring a year after a gestation period of approximately fifty days. Babies have no fur. Most of these bats usually give birth at the start of the rainy season, even though some may mate several months earlier.

Parnell’s moustached bats and people: The relatively large bats of this species consume large numbers of insects, many of which are considered pests to humans, such as mosquitoes. One bat is capable of consuming over 1,000 insects per night. Occasional reports have connected these bats with rabies, a viral disease that affects the nervous system and can be deadly. Rabies is usually transmitted by the bite of an infected animal.

Conservation status: The IUCN does not list these bats as threatened.