Elusive Ectophylla

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Group of Tent-making Bats (Uroderma bilobatum) in Costa Rica (c) Andrew Gray

In Costa Rica there are several species of bat known as ‘Tent Bats’, bats known to modify their direct habitats in order to create resting sites. They form ‘tents’ from rainforest leaves, upon which they have nibbled to create the perfect place to protect them from harsh sunlight, predators, and rain during the day. I have come across many tents bats whilst in Costa Rica, such as Uroderma bilobatum, which use palm leaves to hide underneath (pictured above).

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Honduran White Tent Bats, Ectophylla alba (c) Andrew Gray

However, one species rarely encountered are the white tent bats of the species Ectophylla alba, a unique fruit eating species belonging to a monotypic genus. These elusive bats chew away the side veins extending out from large heliconia plant leaves causing them to fold down to form the ‘tent’.

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Ectophylla alba (c) Andrew Gray

Unlike other tent bats, such as Uroderma bilobatum, these cling to the roof of the tent in very small colonies of only up to half a dozen individuals, consisting of one male and a harem of females. Until today, I have only come across them twice, once high in a plant which proved hard to get a view, and once close up in a mist net. However, to see these tiny beautiful bright yellow-eared bats again so close up was wonderful.

This time they were under a leaf  that was literally a metre from the ground, making it possible for me to observe them very closely without causing them any real disturbance – most tent-making bats take flight at even slight disturbances but these white bats will take flight only when the main stem of their tent is disturbed. This is possibly because they think they are so well camouflaged – and so they normally are, because as sunlight filters through the leaf it gives their white fur a greenish cast, almost completely concealing them from view.

Here is a short clip filmed today –  I hope you’ll enjoy seeing these bats too!

       Video of  Uroderma bats                Tara’s Tent Bat video              Shikaka    

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