This week’s Creature Feature is a bat the size of a large bumblebee, aptly named the Bumblebee Bat. Ellen Daugherty reports
Scientifically known as Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat, this species was named after the zoologist that discovered them in 1974 – Kitti Thonglongya. At only 3-4cm in length and weighing up to 2g, this is by far the smallest species of bat and has often been argued as the smallest mammal in the world. It is only found in remote areas of Thailand and Myanmar, often roosting along the limestone caves that are found by large rivers. Here, they roost in colonies with an average of around 100 individuals, however it is not uncommon to find them in colonies of just 10.
Due to the Bumblebee Bat’s tiny body dimensions, scientists have questioned how it is actually possible that they can fly effectively. It was shown that the web of skin connecting their hind legs, called a uropatagium, is what that helps them to fly. It is found in other species of bat, and is often associated with other gliding mammals such as flying squirrels and colugos. Bumblebee Bats also have long wing tips that enable them to hover like a hummingbird, allowing them to catch small insects while still in flight.
The forested areas near the limestone caves where the bats roost, are often subject to annual burning. This often happens around the time of the their breeding season, in which they will only give birth to a single offspring. This has meant the bats population is on a downward decline, and it now listed by the IUCN as vulnerable. Despite this, and the fact the species has been widely known for over 40 years, very little is known about the Myanmar population. Luckily in Thailand things are different, with the bats being protected under conservation laws and designated national parks have been set up to protect the species.