Lifestyle, Okology, Tourism

The funnel-eared bat: tiny and exclusively Cuban

El murcielago 4 pixabayIts scientific name is Nyctiellus lepidus, it is the smallest found on the Caribbean island, the second smallest on the planet and is often confused with the moth.

 

Yamilé Luguera González

 

It lives exclusively in Cuba and in the Bahamas, and is a nocturnal insectivore also known as Gervais’ funnel-eared bat.

It is thus named in honour of the French naturalist Paul Gervais, who discovered the creature in 1837 according to Gilberto Silva Taboada in his book, “The bats of Cuba”.

It belongs to the Natalidae family, weighs between two and three grams and can grow to lengths between 2.7 and 3.2 centimetres. The females are bigger than the males, a characteristic rarely seen amongst the Chiroptera.

It has 38 teeth and a short, wide snout without a flaky nose. Its tail is rather long considering its size. Its wings, when extended, measure between 18.6cm and 21.3cm and it is seen to fly very similarly to butterflies.

El murcielago 3 pixabayThe bats are typically either brownish-grey or brownish-yellow in colour. They live in warm, humid caves, as well as in the foliage of trees but can also adapt to city constructions, tunnels, abandoned houses and bell-towers.

The creature predominantly eats insects that it catches whilst in flight, at low altitudes, at around dusk or dawn.

The rest of its time is spent within the cave, from which it never ventures more than two kilometres.

When captured, the bat emits a shriek which attracts other bats from the colony, which will circle nearby until it is released.

Copulation takes place in the middle of winter, with the young being born at the beginning of July, and lactation occurs from July through to September.

During this period the females come together in their thousands in maternity colonies and settle in the most protected areas of the caves.

El murcielago 2 pixabayThey fly with their young on their backs so that they are able to feed them; the males can be found in the areas closest to the cave entrance.

These bats can be found scattered across the entirety of Cuba, including the ‘Isle of Youth’. The regions in which they are found in abundance offer healthy crops and have fewer cases of dengue.

Specialists from different investigative centres study this species with the aim of preserving it for its great ecological value.

Carlos Mancina, a biologist from the Cuban Institute of Ecology and Systematics, has stated that since October 2014 numerous specimens have been collected in Camagüey and Guantanamo.

Silva Taboada, a Curator of Merit at Cuba’s National Natural History Museum, discusses in his book how this particular variety of bat is descended from a South American ancestor hitherto unknown, which populated the country and evolved into a new genus.

Occasionally humans have been found to contract illnesses from the creature, including histoplasmosis, which is often picked up in caves contaminated with a certain strain of fungi, and rabies, whichEl murcielago pixabay can affect migratory specimens, but not humans due to their mouths being too small to bite someone.

These Chiroptera are small natural gems, with great ecological importance. It is thus important to preserve their habitat so that the species does not suffer any threat to their existence and continues to be a member of the 26 species of bats to live on the island of Cuba. (PL) (Photos: Pixabay

 

(Translated by Eleanor Gooch)

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