November 10, 2015 Mammals No Comments

(Pteropus conspicillatus)

Spectacled flying-fox female and young: these two flying-foxes are in the care of the Tolga Bat Hospital. Photo © Jennefer Mclean

Spectacled flying-fox female and young: these two flying-foxes are in the care of the Tolga Bat Hospital.
Image © Jennefer Mclean

 

Spectacled flying foxes were first described in 1850 by Gould from a specimen collected on Fitzroy Island. They are important seed dispersers and pollinators of rainforest flora. Spectacled flying foxes have the smallest known distribution and population of the four Australian mainland Pteropus flying foxes.

Description

  • Spectacled flying foxes have distinctive straw-coloured fur around the eyes which gives them their name.
  • Eye rings can sometimes be indistinct and they will look similar to black flying foxes.
  • Pale fur on shoulders can vary between individuals.
  • Average weight 500–1000g.
  • Head–body length 220–240mm.

Habitat

  • Tall rainforests, gallery forest, mangroves or paperbark forests.

Ecology

Life history
  • Little is known about the life span of spectacled flying foxes in the wild, but  can live in captivity for 17 years.
Breeding
  • Mating common throughout first half of year but conception only in March–May, single young born October–December.
  • Mothers carry the young for 3–4 weeks.
  • Older young stay at the camp until they start to fly.
Food
  • Specialist fruit eater that feeds mostly on rainforest fruits, some eucalyptus nectar and pollen.
  • Disperses seeds of at least 26 species of rainforest canopy trees.
Behaviour
  • Usually roost in single-species camps.
  • Territorial and aggressive at rich food resources.
  • Forage only during the night.
Home range
  • Only travel 20–30km from camp to feed.

Distribution

  • Coastal Queensland from Tully to the tip of Cape York and islands in Torres Strait.
  • Spectacled flying foxes are generally found in or around rainforests and sometimes in mangroves associated with black flying foxes.
  • Approximately 194,000 animals in the total population.

Threats

In order of severity:

  • Habitat destruction through large-scale clearing of coastal and upland habitats for sugar, grazing and urban development.
  • Mortality due to paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus).
  • Disturbance at maternity colonies.
  • Death of unknown numbers on barbed wire fences and powerlines.
  • Predators – dogs and cats.

Conservation

Status
  • Federally listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

Fascinating spectacled flying fox fact

Persecution by fruit-growers using electric grids to kill feeding flying foxes in Far North Queensland was a major threat to the species in the early part of 21st century. A series of court cases by conservationists demonstrated that the very existence of the species, and consequently the World Heritage Area Wet Tropics forests, was at risk. The cases set a legal precedent and resulted in electric grids being banned in Queensland.

More information

  • Hall, L. & Richards, R. (2000). Flying-foxes and fruit and blossom bats of Australia. Australian Natural History Series. UNSW Press.
  • Menkhorst, P. & Knight, F. (2004) A Field Guide to the Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press.

Written by Wildlifeqld