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Ghost Bat Fact File

Macroderma gigas

Weight

75-150g

(2.6-5oz)

Length

10-12cm

(4-4.75in)

Lifespan

Wild 22 years

Captive 22 years

Diet

Carnivore

Insects, Small Animals

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

Ghost bats are the largest species of micro-bat in Australia and spend their nights hunting for small vertebrates. They are the only Australian bats to feed on these animals.

Their day is spent in a roost which is located in a cave or mine shaft. By night they use their wings to fly out in to adjacent forest or woodland where they can hunt using echolocation.

These bats form colonies with up to 100 members. Outside of the breeding season these split in to individual groups for the males and females.

Read on to learn more about the amazing mammals.

Appearance

The name ghost bat comes from the grey fur on the back and the pale grey or white on the underside.

On either side of the body is a long, narrow wing.

Atop the head are a pair of extremely large ears. These large ears aid them in hearing prey at long distances. On the nose is a protruding appendage of skin known as the leaf.

Despite being the largest species of microbat in Australia the ghost bat only reaches lengths of between 10 and 12cm (4 and 4.75in) long. An average weight for this species is between 75 and 150g (2.6-5oz). Females tend to be smaller than males. Their wingspan covers up to 60cm (23.6in) across.

Diet


The ghost bat is a carnivore. Their diet includes a range of invertebrates and small vertebrates such as reptiles, birds and small mammals. They have been known to feed on smaller bats.

They will consume the whole animal including bones, teeth, fur and feathers.

When hunting they will drop on to prey from above and wrap the flight membrane around it. Prey is mainly caught on the ground and then carried up to a perch where they can finish consuming it.

The location of food can also be determined using echolocation. They emit a high-pitched sound and then wait to hear the echo which comes back.

Ghosts bats are the only Australian bats to feed on vertebrate prey with the rest eating solely invertebrates.

Ghost Bat

Range

Australia is the native home of the ghost bat. Here they can be found across the north of the country in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Their range also extends on to a number of islands off the coast.

Their range has been much reduced since European settlement when they could be found much further South.

Habitat

Ghosts bats make their home near rainforest or woodland. Here they will roost within a cave, fissure or mine.

Few nesting sites are known with only ten having been recorded.

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Reproduction

Mating occurs from April to August.

After 3 months a single young is born. This will feed on milk which the mother excretes from a nipple under the armpit. The young will remain attached to the mother for 4 weeks.

After this it is left in the nursery cave until it can fly at 7 weeks old.

Sexual maturity is reached at two years old.

Behavior

Ghost bats are nocturnal with feeding occurring soon after sunset.

They will live in a small colony with up to 100 members. After mating the groups will separate based on gender.

Ghost Bat

Predators and Threats

Adults face predation by owls while young must look our for snakes.

Introduced predators such as the feral cat will hunt for ghost bats. Feral cats and the red fox will also compete with them for food.

Humans threaten them through habitat loss and fire. They also build barbed wire fences in which these bats will become entangled.

Cave tourism and mining both cause disturbance to populations of the ghost bat.

Quick facts

Ghost bats are also known as the Australian false vampire bat.

Ghost Bat

Photo Credits

All Images

Sardaka, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Slater, P. and Parish, S., 2016. First Field Guide To Australian Mammals. 1st ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.

Territory Wildlife Park. 2021. Ghost Bat. [online] Available at: <https://territorywildlifepark.com.au/our-animals/ghost-bat> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

Alice Springs Desert Park. 2021. Ghost Bat. [online] Available at: <https://alicespringsdesertpark.com.au/connect-with-nature/animals/animals/ghost-bat> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

Ward, S. and Milne, D., 2016. Threatened Species of the Northern Territory – Ghost Bat. [ebook] Northern Territory Government, pp.1-2. Available at: <https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/376138/ghost-bat-nt.pdf> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

Cooper, J. 2002. "Macroderma gigas" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 07, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Macroderma_gigas/

Adelaide Zoo. 2021. Meet our mysterious Ghost Bat colony at Adelaide Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.adelaidezoo.com.au/animals/ghost-bat/> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

PerthZooWebsite. 2021. Ghost Bat. [online] Available at: <https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/ghost-bat> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

The Australian Museum. 2021. Ghost Bat. [online] Available at: <https://australian.museum/learn/animals/bats/ghost-bat/> [Accessed 8 June 2021].

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