Free-tailed bat

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Free-tailed bats
Temporal range: Late Eocene to recent
Lasiurus borealis.jpg
Unidentified molossid: Note that the tail extends beyond the uropatagium
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Suborder: Microchiroptera
Superfamily: Molossoidea
Family: Molossidae
Gervais in de Castelnau, 1855


The Molossidae, or free-tailed bats, are a family of bats within the order Chiroptera.[1] They are generally quite robust, and consist of many strong flying forms with relatively long and narrow wings. Another common name for some members of this group, and indeed a few species from other families, is mastiff bat. The western mastiff bat (Eumops perotis), a large species from the southwestern United States and Mexico with wings over 0.5 m (1.6 ft) across, is perhaps one of the best known with this name. They are widespread, being found on every continent except Antarctica.

The family's scientific name comes from the type genus Molossus, which in turn is from the Molossus breed of dog.[2]

The family's common name is derived from a length of "free" tail, projecting beyond the end of the uropatagium – the membrane that connects the base of the tail to the hind legs. The tail is usually best seen when resting. A special ring of cartilage slides up or down the tail vertebrae by muscular action to stretch or retract the tail membrane. This gives many species a degree of fine tuning in their flight maneuvers to rival their day-flying ecological equivalents, such as swifts, swallows, and martins. As a result, these animals include the fastest-flying of all bat species among their number.[3] The dental formula of free-tailed bats varies between species: 1.1.1-2.2-31-

Free-tailed bats are usually grey, brown, or black in color, with some exceptions. They range from 4 to 12 cm (1.6 to 4.7 in) in length, excluding the tail, and can weigh from 8 to 220 g (0.28 to 7.76 oz), depending on species. They are insectivorous, and catch their food on the wing. While some species roost in small groups in hollow trees or rocky crevices, some cave-dwelling species form vast colonies of up to 50 million individuals.[3]

Molecular sequence data supports the monophyly of Molossidae as a whole, but not that of many of its genera, such as Chaerephon, Mops, Mormopterus and Tadarida. The grouping of Chaerephon minus C. jobimena plus Mops was found to be monophyletic, as was Otomops.[4]


The 18 genera contain about 100 species:



  1. ^ a b c Simmons, Nancy B. (2005). "Chiroptera". In Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 312–529. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. Retrieved 2 October 2009. 
  2. ^ Skinner, J. D.; Chimimba, C. T. (2006). The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 277. ISBN 0521844185. The name of the [free-tailed bats] family is derived from the Greek molossus, a kind of dog used by Greek shepherds in ancient times 
  3. ^ a b Macdonald, D., ed. (1984). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. p. 807. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  4. ^ Lamb, J. M.; Ralph, T. M. C.; Naidoo, T.; Taylor, P. J.; Ratrimomanarivo, F.; Stanley, W. T.; Goodman, S. M. (June 2011). "Toward a Molecular Phylogeny for the Molossidae (Chiroptera) of the Afro-Malagasy Region". Acta Chiropterologica. 13 (1): 1–16. doi:10.3161/150811011X578589. 
  5. ^ Czaplewski, N. J. (1997). "Chiroptera". In Kay, R. F.; Madden, R. H.; Cifelli, R. L.; Flynn, J. J. Vertebrate Paleontology in the Neotropics: The Miocene Fauna of La Venta, Colombia. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 410–431. ISBN 9781560984184. 
  6. ^ Gardner, Alfred L. (2008). Mammals of South America: Marsupials, xenarthrans, shrews, and bats. University of Chicago Press. p. 669. ISBN 0-226-28240-6. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Corbet, G. B.; Hill, J. E. (1992). The Mammals of the Indomalayan Region: A Systematic Review. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198546931. 
  • Mohd-Azlan, J.; Maryanto, I.; Kartono, A. P.; Abdullah, M. T. (2003). "Diversity, relative abundance and conservation of chiropterans in Kayan Menterang National Park, East Kalimantan, Indonesia". Sarawak Museum Journal. 53 (79): 251–265. 
  • Hall, L. S.; Richards, G. C.; Abdullah, M. T. (2002). "The bats of Niah National Park, Sarawak". Sarawak Museum Journal. 78: 255–282.