Little red flying foxes (Pteropus scapulatus) are primarily found in Australia and have the largest distribution of any other member of the genus Pteropus within Australia. Occasionally, these bats have been seen as far away as Papua New Guinea. There has also been one sighting of an individual in New Zealand. Although little red flying foxes occur throughout Australia, they are particularly abundant in northern Australia. (Daniel, 1975; Hall, 1987; Vardon, et al., 1997; Waithman, 1979)
Little red flying foxes occur throughout coastal regions as well as arid landscapes of inland Australia. Limited knowledge from recent studies suggests that these bats often congregate at camps in riparian habitat, such as fresh/saltwater mangroves, bamboo, and closed forests. Selection of such congregation sites may be determined by seasonal variation, as well as by other factors; such as human hunting, natural catastrophe regimes, and climatic fluctuations. (Sinclair, et al., 1996; Tidemann, et al., 1999; Webb and Tidemann, 1999)
Little red flying foxes are medium-sized bats. The average wingspan of P. scapulatus males varies from .9 to 1.2 m. Weights of these males can can reach 550 g. There is no relevant literature available pertaining to body length and basal metabolic rate of P. scapulatus. However the body length of black flying foxes (Pteropus alecto) is known to range from 240 to 260 mm.
Females and males congregate in large camps, especially during the 2-month mating season and during the 5 months of lactation. As many as 1 million individuals are known to congregate at a single camp.
Studies suggest that most females are associated with males in harem groups during the mating season. After mating, females establish small groups consisting exclusively of females. These small female groups are maintained until young are born. (Nelson, 1965; Nowak, 1999)
The breeding season of P. scapulatus occurs between the Australian spring months of November and December. It and appears to be regulated by circannual endogenous rhythms. Young are born 5 months later in April to May. Many species in the genus Pteropus undergo delayed implantation, so it is possible that the actual time of development is not as long as the gestation period indicates. Lactation in this genus lasts between 3 and 6 months, although data are not available on its duration for P. scapulatus. Sexual maturity is typically reached between 18 months and 2 years of age. (Nowak, 1999; O’Brien and Nankervis, 1994; O’Brien, 1993; O’Brien, 1996)
Young bats are not able to fly from birth, and so may be called altricial. In some Pteropus species, the mother carries her young with her for a few months. There are no data on this behavior P. scapulatus. Lactating Pteropus females raise their young close to adult size before they are weaned. Females must contribute close to all of the calcium that is required to the developing skeletal system of the offspring. As a consequence, females often suffer from osteoporosis. Females with osteoporosis have a greater chance of breaking bones necessary for flight. Without the ability to fly, there is a high probability that females with broken limbs will die from starvation.
There are no data available on the role of males in parental care. (Nelson, 2001)
No information is available on the life span of this species. However, other members of the genus are reported to have lived as long as 30 years in captivity. As flying mammals typically have lifespans longer than expected based solely upon their body size, it is likely that P. scapulatus has a similarly long lifespan. (Nowak, 1999)
The distribution of little red flying foxes extends throughout an area of 3.5 million km2. This range includes both temperate and tropical regions. During the warmer months of October to April, P. scapulatus primarily inhabits the temperate regions at the southern extent of its range. (Radcliff, 1931; Sinclair, et al., 1996)
No information is available pertaining to the home range of this species.
Species within Pteropus are frugivores and do not echolocate. No information on the communication of P. scapulatus is available; however, generally Pteropus species are known to communicate with loud vocalizations. While roosting, vocalizations are emitted by adults and juveniles at frequencies that are audible to the human ear. Communication by such vocalizations occurs during agonistic behaviors, escaping agonistic behaviors, and by females when males attempt to copulate with them. Vocalizations by juveniles help mothers identify their young after foraging.
In addition to vocal communication, tactile communication is important between mates and between mothers and their offspring.
Chemical communication is important in some species of Pteropus, especially in helping males mark territories during breeding season. Although this behavior has not been reported for this species, it is possible that similar scent cues are used.
The role of visual signals, such as body postures, has not been investigated. (Nowak, 1999)
Little red flying foxes are known to primarily feed on blossoms of eucalyptus trees. However, it is currently uncertain what the importance of eucalyptus foliage is in their diet. It has been suggested that Pteropus species obtain high amounts of calcium from calcium-rich vegetation such as eucalyptus. There is some suggestion that P. scapulatus follows the foraging resources of eucalyptus blooms throughout the landscape. No other information pertaining to the foraging habits of little red flying foxes is currently available. (Barclay, 2002; Funakoshi, et al., 1993; Marshall, 1985; Nelson, 1965; Radcliff, 1931; Richards, 1995; Sinclair, et al., 1996; Vardon, et al., 1997)
Limited information is available on the predators of Pteropus species. In many states throughout Australia, P. scapulatus is considered a pest, and is subject to large-scale hunting and poisoning by humans. (Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999; Nowak, 1999)
Little red flying foxes are important for the pollination and seed dispersal of native flora within Australia. (Nowak, 1999)
In regions of fruit production, this species is considered a pest because of its tendency to feed upon agricultural crops. (Nowak, 1999)
Pteropus scapulatus is considered common, and is legally protected in Australia. This species does not qualify for endangered, threatened, or vulnerable status and is considered a taxon of least concern. (Nowak, 1999; Sinclair, et al., 1996)
Jeremie Marko (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor, instructor), Humboldt State University.
Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.
uses sound to communicate
living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
used loosely to describe any group of organisms living together or in close proximity to each other - for example nesting shorebirds that live in large colonies. More specifically refers to a group of organisms in which members act as specialized subunits (a continuous, modular society) - as in clonal organisms.
in mammals, a condition in which a fertilized egg reaches the uterus but delays its implantation in the uterine lining, sometimes for several months.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
union of egg and spermatozoan
an animal that mainly eats leaves.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
an animal that mainly eats fruit
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
islands that are not part of continental shelf areas, they are not, and have never been, connected to a continental land mass, most typically these are volcanic islands.
having more than one female as a mate at one time
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
breeding is confined to a particular season
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
uses sight to communicate
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