November 10, 2015 Mammals No Comments

(Pteropus conspicillatus)

Spectacled flying-foxes were first described in 1850 by Gould

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.
Photo © Jennefer Mclean

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 smallest 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.

Spectacled Flying Fox Distribution in Australia

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 cat.

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.

Activities

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