You may disagree, but these are some of the world’s prettiest bats! Most bats have rodent-like faces, but the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is in a class by itself. The strange-looking flying animal has a hyper elongated face that has many people who view photos of it on social media questioning its very existence. Despite its outsized look, the hammer-headed bat is a real animal. The hammer-headed bat, also known as the hammer-headed fruit bat and the big-lipped bat, is a megabat species found in Central African tropical woods.
It favors lowland wet woods, riverine forests, and swamp forests, as well as mangrove and palm forests, where it roosts on trees. The hammerhead bat is Africa’s biggest bat, with a wingspan of up to 38 inches (97 cm). However, its typical body length is a considerably more modest 10 inches (25 cm). Males are much bigger than females. In reality, it is the males that have the huge head with larger rostrum, larynx, and lips that distinguish the species, whereas the females resemble other fruit bats.
Unlike other bat species that segregate based on s.e.x, male and female hammer-headed bats will congregate in groups ranging from four to twenty-five. Males and females have various foraging methods, with females trap-lining, which involves traveling an established path with reliable food sources, even if the food is of inferior quality. Males take a much riskier approach, traveling up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) in pursuit of particularly good food patches.
When the bats locate food they like, they may nibble on the tree for a while before collecting some fruit and transporting it to another location for eating. Their ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ season lasts anywhere from one to three months. These bats show traditional lek ᴍᴀᴛɪɴɢ, which means that a large number of male suitors would assemble at a location and participate in competitive displays and courtship rituals known as lekking to seduce visiting females. Males generate an unusual calling sound to entice females who are on the lookout for potential mates.
“I’m simply awestruck by hammer-headed fruit bats (Hypsignathus monstrosus). Close-up any given feature, eye, fur, nose, ear, wing, or foot, is extraordinary. In hand, whiskers appear in patterns seemingly unique to each individual, and the nasal and lip folds of the adult males, like the one shown, provide a sculptural finish to the overall moose-head look. As we handle them to collect samples, they show distinct behaviors ranging from docile to teeth masher, hence the thick leather gloves. Functionally, as the largest fruit bats in Africa (males weigh in around one pound), they are flying seed dispersal machines, critical to equatorial forest health,” wrote Sarah Olson, an associate director of wildlife health at the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), in a 2018 blog post.
Olson and colleagues have been researching these secretive bats for several years in order to gain a better understanding of their ecology and behavior. With the pandemic’s devastation still vivid in everyone’s consciousness, this may be extremely significant in the future as well. The hammer-headed bat is one of three African fruit bat species that can get asymptomatically ɪɴfᴇᴄᴛᴇᴅ with the .d.e.a.dly Eʙᴏʟᴀ ᴠ.ɪ.ʀ.ᴜ.s, however, scientists have yet to determine whether the species is an accidental host or a viral reservoir.
“In addition to enᴅᴀɴɢᴇʀing human health, this ʟᴇᴛʜᴀʟ ᴠɪʀᴜs has been connected to large decreases in populations of western lowland gorillas in Congo and Gabon.” “As scientists, our duty is to discover a strategy to avoid Eʙᴏʟᴀ ᴇᴘɪᴅᴇᴍɪᴄs and help save these bats for future generations, one bat at a time,” Olson said.