Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent
|Large flying fox, Pteropus vampyrus|
|Suborder:||Megachiroptera or Yinpterochiroptera
Megabats constitute the suborder Megachiroptera, family Pteropodidae of the order Chiroptera (bats). They are also called fruit bats, old world fruit bats, or, especially the genera Acerodon and Pteropus, flying foxes. Fruit bats are restricted to the Old World in a tropical and subtropical distribution, ranging no further than the eastern Mediterranean and South Asia, and are absent from northwest Africa and southwest Australia.
Megabats, however contrary to their name, are not always large; the smallest species is 6 cm (2.4 in) long and thus smaller than some microbats. The largest attain a wingspan of 1.7 m (5.6 ft), weighing in at up to 1.6 kg (3.5 lb). Most fruit bats have large eyes, allowing them to orient themselves visually in twilight and inside caves and forests.
Their sense of smell is excellent. In contrast to the microbats, the fruit bats do not use echolocation (with one exception, the Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus egyptiacus, which uses high-pitched tongue clicks to navigate in caves).
Loss of echolocation
Megabats make up the only family (Pteropodidae) in order Chiroptera that is not capable of laryngeal echolocation, unlike the microbat. Echolocation and flight evolved early in the lineage of Chiropterans and echolocation was later lost in family Pteropodidae. Both echolocation and flight are energetically expensive processes for bats. The nature of the flight and echolocation mechanism of bats allows for creation of echolocation pulses with minimal energy use. Energetic coupling of these two processes is thought to have allowed for both energetically expensive processes to evolve in bats. It is hypothesized that the loss of echolocation is due to the uncoupling of flight and echolocation in megabats. The larger average body size of megabats compared to echolocating bats suggests that a larger body size disrupts the flight-echolocation coupling and made echolocation too energetically expensive to be conserved in megabats.
Behavior and ecology
Megabats are one of the two types of bats, the others being the insect-eating bats. The megabats are fruit bats, but most species cannot echolocate. They mostly roost in trees and shrubs, but only those that possess echolocation venture into the dark recesses of caves. Because they eat fruit, some megabat species are unpopular with orchard owners. Megabats are frugivorous or nectarivorous, i.e., they eat fruits or lick nectar from flowers. Often the fruits are crushed and only the juices are consumed. The teeth are adapted to bite through hard fruit skins. Large fruit bats must land to eat fruit, while the smaller species are able to hover with flapping wings in front of a flower or fruit.
Frugivorous bats aid the distribution of plants (and therefore, forests) by carrying the fruits with them and spitting the seeds or eliminating them elsewhere. Nectarivores actually pollinate visited plants. They bear long tongues that are inserted deep into the flower; pollen passed to the bat is then transported to the next blossom visited, thereby pollinating it. This relationship between plants and bats is a form of mutualism known as chiropterophily. Examples of plants that benefit from this arrangement include the baobabs of the genus Adansonia and the sausage tree (Kigelia).
As disease reservoirs
Fruit bats have been found to act as reservoirs for a number of diseases that are fatal to humans and domestic animals, but the bats themselves sometimes have no signs of infection.  A different species has emerged in Ivory Coast, another West African country, just east of Guinea and Liberia. According to a study published in Science in late August by Stephen K. Gire of Harvard and a long list of co-authors, the virus in West Africa seems to have diverged from its lineage in Central Africa just within the past decade. It somehow leapfrogged over or around the Ivory Coast ebolavirus in order to situate itself in southeastern Guinea. That suggests the unnerving prospect that the Central African ebolavirus (the only one strictly known as Ebola virus) is expanding its range, either by infecting new populations of reservoir hosts or by migrations of those host animals.
Three species of bats tested positive for Ebola, but had no symptoms of the virus. This indicates the bats may be acting as a reservoir for the virus. Of the infected animals identified during these field collections, immunoglobulin G (IgG) specific for Ebola virus was detected in Hypsignathus monstrosus (Hammer-Headed Bat), Epomops franqueti (Franquet's Epauletted Fruit Bat), and Myonycteris torquata (Little Collared Fruit Bat). Researchers tested fruit bats for the presence of the Ebola virus between 2001 and 2003. Ebola virus is a zoonosis, meaning an animal infection transmissible to humans. The animal in which a zoonosis lives its customary existence, discreetly, over the long term, and without causing symptoms, is called a reservoir host. The reservoir host of Ebola virus is still unknown—even after 38 years of efforts to identify it, since the original 1976 outbreak—although one or more kinds of fruit bat, including the hammer-headed bat, are suspects
Other viral diseases which can be carried by fruit bats include Australian bat lyssavirus and Henipavirus (notably Hendra virus and Nipah virus), both of which can prove fatal to humans. These bats have been shown to infect other species (specifically horses) with Hendra virus in Australian regions. Later, humans became infected with Hendra virus after being exposed to horse body fluids and excretions.
Fruit bats are considered a delicacy by South Pacific Islanders as well as in Micronesia. Consumption has been suggested as a cause of Lytico-Bodig disease on the Micronesian island of Guam, through bioaccumulation of a plant toxin that the bats are immune to.
Bats are usually thought to belong to one of two monophyletic groups, a view that is reflected in their classification into two suborders (Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera). According to this hypothesis, all living megabats and microbats are descendants of a common ancestor species that was already capable of flight.
However, there have been other views, and a vigorous debate persists to this date. For example, in the 1980s and 1990s, some researchers proposed (based primarily on the similarity of the visual pathways) that the Megachiroptera were in fact more closely affiliated with the primates than the Microchiroptera, with the two groups of bats having therefore evolved flight via convergence (see Flying primates theory). However, a recent flurry of genetic studies confirms the more longstanding notion that all bats are indeed members of the same clade, the Chiroptera. Other studies have recently suggested that certain families of microbats (possibly the horseshoe bats, mouse-tailed bats and the false vampires) are evolutionarily closer to the fruit bats than to other microbats.
List of species
- Subfamily Nyctimeninae
- Genus Nyctimene – tube-nosed fruit bats
- Broad-striped Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene aello
- Common Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene albiventer
- Pallas's Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene cephalotes
- Dark Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene celaeno
- Mountain Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene certans
- Round-eared Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene cyclotis
- Dragon Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene draconilla
- Keast's Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene keasti
- Island Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene major
- Malaita Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene malaitensis
- Demonic Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene masalai
- Lesser Tube-nosed Bat, Nyctimene minutus
- Philippine Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene rabori
- Eastern Tube-nosed Bat, Nyctimene robinsoni
- Nendo Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene sanctacrucis (early 20th century †)
- Umboi Tube-nosed Fruit Bat, Nyctimene vizcaccia
- Genus Paranyctimene
- Genus Nyctimene – tube-nosed fruit bats
- Subfamily Cynopterinae
- Genus Aethalops – pygmy fruit bats
- Genus Alionycteris
- Mindanao Pygmy Fruit Bat, Alionycteris paucidentata
- Genus Balionycteris
- Spotted-winged Fruit Bat, Balionycteris maculata
- Genus Chironax
- Black-capped Fruit Bat, Chironax melanocephalus
- Genus Cynopterus – dog-faced fruit bats or short-nosed fruit bats
- Lesser Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Cynopterus brachyotis
- Horsfield’s Fruit Bat, Cynopterus horsfieldii
- Peters’s Fruit Bat, Cynopterus luzoniensis
- Minute Fruit Bat, Cynopterus minutus
- Nusatenggara Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Cynopterus nusatenggara
- Greater Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Cynopterus sphinx
- Indonesian Short-nosed Fruit Bat, Cynopterus titthaecheilus
- Genus Dyacopterus – Dayak fruit bats
- Genus Haplonycteris
- Fischer's Pygmy Fruit Bat, Haplonycteris fischeri
- Genus Latidens
- Salim Ali's Fruit Bat, Latidens salimalii
- Genus Megaerops
- Genus Otopteropus
- Luzon Fruit Bat, Otopteropus cartilagonodus
- Genus Penthetor
- Dusky Fruit Bat, Penthetor lucasi
- Genus Ptenochirus – musky fruit bats
- Genus Sphaerias
- Blanford's Fruit Bat, Sphaerias blanfordi
- Genus Thoopterus
- Swift Fruit Bat, Thoopterus nigrescens
- Subfamily Harpiyonycterinae
- Genus Aproteles
- Bulmer's Fruit Bat, Aproteles bulmerae
- Genus Dobsonia – bare-backed fruit bats
- Andersen's Bare-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia anderseni
- Beaufort's Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia beauforti
- Philippine Bare-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia chapmani
- Halmahera Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia crenulata
- Biak Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia emersa
- Sulawesi Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia exoleta
- Solomon's Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia inermis
- Lesser Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia minor
- Moluccan Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia moluccensis
- Panniet Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia pannietensis
- Western Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia peroni
- New Britain Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia praedatrix
- Greenish Naked-backed Fruit Bat, Dobsonia viridis
- Genus Harpyionycteris
- Genus Aproteles
- Subfamily Macroglossinae
- Genus Macroglossus – long-tongued fruit bats
- Genus Melonycteris
- Genus Notopteris – long-tailed fruit bats
- Genus Syconycteris – blossom bats
- Subfamily Pteropodinae
- Genus Acerodon
- Genus Desmalopex
- Genus Eidolon – straw-coloured fruit bats
- Genus Mirimiri
- Fijian Monkey-faced Bat, Mirimiri acrodonta
- Genus Neopteryx
- Small-toothed Fruit Bat, Neopteryx frosti
- Genus Pteralopex
- Genus Pteropus – flying foxes
- P. alecto species group
- Black Flying Fox, Pteropus alecto
- P. caniceps species group
- Ashy-headed Flying Fox, Pteropus caniceps
- P. chrysoproctus species group
- P. conspicillatus species group
- P. livingstonii species group
- P. mariannus species group
- P. melanotus species group
- Black-eared Flying Fox, Pteropus melanotus
- P. molossinus species group
- P. neohibernicus species group
- Great Flying Fox, Pteropus neohibernicus
- P. niger species group
- P. personatus species group
- P. poliocephalus species group
- P. pselaphon species group
- Chuuk Flying Fox, Pteropus insularis
- Temotu Flying Fox, Pteropus nitendiensis
- Large Palau Flying Fox, Pteropus pilosus (19th century †)
- Bonin Flying Fox, Pteropus pselaphon
- Guam Flying Fox, Pteropus tokudae (1970s †)
- Insular Flying Fox, Pteropus tonganus
- Vanikoro Flying Fox, Pteropus tuberculatus
- New Caledonia Flying Fox, Pteropus vetulus
- P. samoensis species group
- P. scapulatus species group
- P. subniger species group
- Admiralty Flying Fox, Pteropus admiralitatum
- Dusky Flying Fox, Pteropus brunneus (19th century †)
- Ryukyu Flying Fox, Pteropus dasymallus
- Nicobar Flying Fox, Pteropus faunulus
- Gray Flying Fox, Pteropus griseus
- Ontong Java Flying Fox, Pteropus howensis
- Small Flying Fox, Pteropus hypomelanus
- Ornate Flying Fox, Pteropus ornatus
- Little Golden-mantled Flying Fox, Pteropus pumilus
- Philippine Gray Flying Fox, Pteropus speciosus
- Small Mauritian Flying Fox, Pteropus subniger (19th century †)
- P. vampyrus species group
- incertae sedis
- P. alecto species group
- Genus Styloctenium
- Subfamily Rousettinae
- Genus Eonycteris – dawn fruit bats
- Genus Rousettus – rousette fruit bats
- Subgenus Boneia
- Manado Fruit Bat, Rousettus (Boneia) bidens
- Subgenus Rousettus
- Geoffroy's Rousette, Rousettus amplexicaudatus
- Sulawesi Rousette, Rousettus celebensis
- Egyptian Rousette (Egyptian Fruit Bat), Rousettus aegyptiacus
- Leschenault's Rousette, Rousettus leschenaulti
- Linduan Rousette, Rousettus linduensis
- Comoro Rousette, Rousettus obliviosus
- Bare-backed Rousette, Rousettus spinalatus
- Subgenus Stenonycteris
- Subgenus Boneia
- Subfamily Epomophorinae
- Tribe Epomophorini
- Genus Epomophorus – epauletted fruit bats
- Angolan Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus angolensis
- Ansell's Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus anselli
- Peters's Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus crypturus
- Gambian Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus gambianus
- Lesser Angolan Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus grandis
- Ethiopian Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus labiatus
- East African Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus minimus
- Minor Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus minor
- Wahlberg's Epauletted Fruit Bat, Epomophorus wahlbergi
- Genus Epomops – epauletted bats
- Genus Hypsignathus
- Hammer-headed Bat, Hypsignathus monstrosus
- Genus Micropteropus – dwarf epauletted bats
- Genus Nanonycteris
- Veldkamp's Dwarf Epauletted Fruit Bat, Nanonycteris veldkampii
- Genus Epomophorus – epauletted fruit bats
- Tribe Myonycterini
- Genus Lissonycteris
- Angolan Rousette, Lissonycteris angolensis
- Genus Megaloglossus
- Woermann's Bat, Megaloglossus woermanni
- Genus Myonycteris – little collared fruit bats
- Genus Lissonycteris
- Tribe Plerotini
- Tribe Scotonycterini
- Tribe Epomophorini
- Mickleburgh, Hutson and Racey. "Old World Fruit Bats:Introduction". International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
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- E.g., the Mauritian Tomb Bat. See Garbutt, Nick. "Mauritian Tomb Bat." Mammals of Madagascar: A Complete Guide. Yale University Press. 2007. p. 67. 
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- Lancaster, W.C., O.W. Henson, and A.W. Keating (1995). "Respiratory muscle activity in relation to vocalization in flying bats". Journal of Experimental Biology 198 (Pt 1): 175–191. PMID 7891034.
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- National Geographic, October 2007. "Deadly Contact," David Quammen, pp. 78–105.
- Researchers tested fruit bats for the presence of the Ebola virus between 2001 and 2003. Ebola virus is a zoonosis, meaning an animal infection transmissible to humans. The animal in which a zoonosis lives its customary existence, discreetly, over the long term, and without causing symptoms, is called a reservoir host. The reservoir host of Ebola virus is still unknown—even after 38 years of efforts to identify it, since the original 1976 outbreak—although one or more kinds of fruit bat, including the hammer-headed bat, are suspects.
- National Geographic "Tracking a serial killer"
- National geographic: David Quammen "Tracking Serial killers"
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- "Hendra Virus Disease & Nipah Virus Encephalitis Fact Sheet". CDC. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
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- Leroy, E. M.; Kumulungui, B.; Pourrut, X.; Rouquet, P.; Hassanin, A.; Yaba, P.; Délicat, A.; Paweska, J. T.; Gonzalez, J. P.; Swanepoel, R. (2005). "Fruit bats as reservoirs of Ebola virus". Nature 438 (7068): 575–576. Bibcode:2005Natur.438..575L. doi:10.1038/438575a. PMID 16319873.
- Bat World Sanctuary
- Rodrigues Fruit Bats[dead link]
- Bat Conservation International
- Criticism of the molecular evidence for bat monophyly
- Brief history of Megachiroptera / Megabats
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