One quarter of all mammal species inthe world are bats, which belong tothe order Chiroptera, meaning ‘hand- winged’. Bats can be divided into twosuborders:• Megabats (Megachiroptera)
whichincludes ﬂying-foxes, as well as thelesser known tubenosed bats andblossom bats.• Microbats (Microchiroptera)
are smaller insectivorous bats.Megabats diﬀer greatly from microbats(see Table 1); their main similaritiesare that they are the only wingedmammals and are primarily nocturnal.
Flying-foxes, otherwise known as fruitbats, are members of the Pteropodidaefamily. They have the largest body size of all bats, weighing up to onekilogram, with a wing span whichmay exceed one metre. There areeight known species of ﬂying-foxin Australia, of which only four arerelatively widespread on the Australianmainland. These are the black, thespectacled, the grey-headed and thelittle red ﬂying-foxes. The ﬁrst threeof these have similar habits andlifestyle but are found in diﬀerent
parts of Australia, their ranges partially overlapping. The little red ﬂying-foxis smaller and gives birth at a diﬀerenttime to the others and tends to followthe ﬂowering of the eucalypts inland,moving to the coast irregularly.The grey-headed ﬂying-fox (
is the largest member of the family and is a native species thatis endemic to Australia on the easternseaboard – southern Queensland, NewSouth Wales and Victoria.The beautiful spectacled ﬂying-fox(
), which is only found in tropical rainforest areas innorth-eastern Queensland, is also listedas vulnerable at the national level.The black ﬂying-fox (
was previously listed as vulnerableunder New South Wales legislation,ranging across most of the coast of northern Australia, but was recently delisted due to increasing numbersin NSW. However, many believethat this is likely to be due to a rangeshift southwards, rather than a rangeexpansion or any actual overallpopulation increase.The little red ﬂying-fox (
) is both more numerousand more nomadic than the otherthree species. They roost muchcloser together in larger numbersand because of this often cause a lotof damage to vegetation where they decide to camp. This is one reasonthat they are so nomadic – if they were to stay too long in one place, the vegetation would struggle to recover,but if they keep moving regularly, the vegetation gets the chance to bounceback so that it is healthy again for thenext time they might visit.
known as fruit bats, their favouritefood is actually the pollen and nectarof eucalypt blossoms, followed by other native hardwood blossoms,such as melaleuca (paperbark) andbanksia, and rainforest fruits includinglilly pillies and ﬁgs. Exotic fruits aregenerally not preferred, but often lackof preferred food sources will forceﬂying-foxes into orchards and backyardfruit trees, where they face such dangersas shooters and loose netting.This lack of preferred food sources iscaused by two main factors. The ﬁrst isthe natural unreliability of ﬂowering inthe eucalypt forests. Nectar and pollenproduction varies considerably from year to year, with many species
Grey-headed flying-fox “belly dips” in theParramatta River to cool and rehydrate itselfon a scorching hot Sydney summer day.Photo: Nick Edards (www.enigmatech.com.au)