Bats are one of the more unusual animals in the world--they are the only mammals that can truly fly and are the inspiration of folk horror legends. They come in a variety of species, each with different coloration, size and habits. One of the more unusual bats is the ghost bat, a species native to Australia and notable for its distinct features, breeding style and diet.
Location and Appearance
The ghost bat is an Australian mammal found in the north and the west part of the country. They are named for their white appearance, which comes from the long, soft, pale fur that covers their bodies and the near-translucent quality of their skin. The fur is typically white or a pale shade of gray, making for the appearance of a ghost flying overhead. Ghost bats’ average head and body measurement is 10 cm long and they have a wingspan of approximately 60 cm.
Ghost bats live in a variety of habitats, sometimes referred to as roosting sites. They gravitate toward the rain forest or arid environments like savannas. Within these specific areas, ghost bats can be found in caves, crevices, mine shafts and on rock outcrops. The bats tend to form colonies but due to the destruction of roosting sites, large colonies are becoming increasingly rare.
The ghost bat is the only Australian bat with carnivorous eating habits. Their diet consists of lizards, frogs, birds, insects and, sometimes, other bats. The animals find their prey through both sight (their large eyes are keen) and sound (echolocation). They ambush prospective meals from overhead, killing the smaller animals with bites to the head or neck. This method of killing prey lends to the false theory that bats double as vampires, giving ghost bats the alternate title “false vampire bats.” After collecting their prey, the bats return to a feeding site to eat.
Mating and Offspring
Separate male and female colonies are formed during breeding season. Mating is not a regular occurrence for ghost bats, as females only reproduce once a year, and deliver only a single offspring. That offspring is typically born sometime between July and September. The young bat consumes milk until it is large and strong enough to eat meat, at which time the mother will provide food for it through hunting.
Despite problematic increases in aridity in Australian climates, the main threats to ghost bats’ livelihood stem from human activities. The animals leave their roosting sites when people enter into them, so mining, quarrying and tourism all affect the ghost bat’s ability to live and thrive in particular areas. In addition, ghost bats compete for food with animals that have been introduced into their environment, mainly cats and foxes, leading to potential starvation. Also, barbed wire fences can cause injury to the bats.