In the spirit of Halloween passed, today’s endangered animal is the Mexican long-nosed bat or Leptonycteris nivalis. For starters, not much is known about the range of this species. The Mexican long-nosed bat is reported to be seen in the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas as well as Mexico and Guatemala. The reason the range is not specifically known is because scientists have not been able to pinpoint the migratory pattern of the species. Population size of roosts can range from zero to 10,000 individuals in a single year but it is suspected that the overall general population of the species is definitely declining. Fun fact: When you think of a flying creature, it’s usually a bird however, bats are the only mammals that can fly.
The Mexican Long-nosed bat is named exactly that for a reason. It’s muzzle is longer than the average, American bat species and it has what’s known as a noseleaf at the very tip of it’s muzzle. In order to explain the noseleaf’s function, we have to start with echolocation. Echolocation is a form of communication that certain animal species use to orient themselves with their surroundings. It’s a form of sonar which consists of the animal emitting calls out into their environment and receiving information back in the form of echos or sound waves. This enables the species to navigate their surroundings without actually “seeing” where they’re going. If you’ve ever heard the phrase, “blind as a bat” that’s because bats have poor eyesight and rely heavily on echolocation. The noseleaf on the Mexican Long-nosed bat, focuses the echolocation calls emitted greatly enhancing their view of the world so to speak. Other distinguishing features of this species from other bats is its size — about 2.75 to 3.75 inches in total length with a 14 inch wingspan, and it has a 3 inch long tongue. The coloring of this bat varies between gray and sooty brown and they have long, fluffy fur.
As previously stated, the Mexican Long-nosed bat can range in roost size up to 10,000 individuals. When it’s time to eat, the bats will emerge after sunset and feed on flower species that open at night such as agave, cacti and century plants. This species not only drinks the nectar, it also consumes the pollen because the pollen is a high protein source and provides vitamins and minerals that keep these bat’s fur nice and shiny. The Mexican Long-nose bats are adept fliers and are able to hover and feed at the same time like hummingbirds because of that long tongue. This species will follow the flowering periods of agave. They start North, in the US states and then migrate South to Mexico in winter most of the time. Breeding season occurs between October and December in Mexico. A single offspring is usually born around April and May, will nurse for about a month and is able to fly by five weeks. Average life span of the Mexican Long-nosed bat is about 15-20 years.
In 1937, the Mexican Long-nosed bat species was discovered in a cave of the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park in Texas. Today, that’s primarily one of the only locations you can see this species as there is a protected sub-population in Emory Park of Big Bend National Park. The major threats to this species are human disturbance and destruction of their habitat as well as agave harvesting; the bats main food source. This is critical because an agave plant only flowers once then it dies and it takes 10 to 20 years to get to the flowering point. Another threat from humans stem from ranchers who have vampire bat problems. Yes, vampire bats are real however, the Mexican Long-nosed bat often gets confused with the vampire bat pests and ranchers tend to kill the many instead of the few. Conservation of this species is an ongoing process as researchers and scientists try to conduct surveys to understand the ecology better in order to put into place programs to keep the species from declining into critically endangered territory. If you ever find yourself entering a cave, be mindful of the potential disturbance and stress you can cause bat species. Best practices for viewing bats are waiting for them to come out versus going in to see them.
If you would like to learn more about bat conservation, feel free to visit Bat Conservation International (BatCon) for more information.