What is a Spectral Bat?

The Spectral Bat is quite fearsome in appearance, with a wingspan of up to 91.5cm: some larger individual bats have even been recorded as having wingspans of over a metre. Living in South and Central America, as well as on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean, the Spectral Bat is found from southern Mexico to Ecuador and Peru, as well as in Argentina, Guatemala, Brazil, Guyana, and Suriname. It's the largest bat native to the Americas, and generally lives in wooded, damp areas. Because of this, it's under threat due to logging.

Feeding Habits

Unlike many smaller bats, which are peaceful vegetarians, the Spectral Bat is very carnivorous, eating many other animals and even other bats. With four fangs in its upper jaw, the Spectral Bat evokes images of Dracula as it wraps its enormous wings around its prey and begins to devour it. Eating another bat can take the Spectral Bat a full night, but the gruesome meal will sustain it for many days to come. Unsurprisingly, it's known as the False Vampire Bat, although it is not related to the European family of bats with the same name, and it doesn't actually drink blood.

Breeding

Spectral Bats are mysterious creatures, and scientists do not yet understand their mating and breeding habits thoroughly. It is thought, however, that this breed of bat often mates for life, with the male bat remaining present with the mother and their offspring, even sleeping together with the male bat's wings wrapped protectively around the bat family. Usually just one young bat is reared at a time, although twins and even triplets have been recorded. The young are usually born around May to July.

Ecology and Habitat

These bats require forest areas to hunt, breed, and live in. Generally, the bats prefer lowland and evergreen forests, although they are also found in small populations in swampy or marshy areas and in deciduous forests. The bats hunt prey for their food, eating many species of birds, small mammals, insects, and even other bats (as noted above). The bats roost in hollow trees on their own or in their family groups in the daytime, and begin to hunt at dusk. They then return to the nest to roost for part of the night.

A Species Under Threat

Populations of this type of bat are in decline, with the bat officially classified as Near Threatened. Because it primarily lives in forest and other wooded areas, the bat is threatened by logging and other human activity. In Mexico, the bat is classified as an endangered species.

Other Fascinating Facts

This type of bat has a highly developed and acute sense of smell, allowing it to hunt out its prey in the dark forest where it lives. Its Latin name is Vampyrum Spectrum, or Spectral Vampire, although as previously noted, it doesn't actually drink blood. Because of the name and the huge wingspan, however, many people fear this bat, and watching one in action is certainly a memorable experience. Unusually for bats, this species has no tail, although it does have a distinctive leaf-shaped nose which makes it instantly recognisable. Despite the very large reach of their wings, these bats are slender creatures, only weighing around 145 - 190g.