Bats in my porch: 19. Does the male help look after the pup?

on 3rd November 2014

“On this particular evening, the roost was occupied by less than half a dozen Common Fruit Bats (Cynopterus brachyotis). The key players were the alpha male, two adults with one suckling a pup and a few others (see video above).

“The alpha male was actively courting the adult suckling a pup, extending his wings and flapping them. After some time another adult moved towards the pair but not in a confrontational way. The alpha male slowly moved off.

“Based on the collar colour of the approaching adult, it appears to be similar to that of the alpha male (on the right, in the image above – photographs were taken as the scene unfolded to provide clearer details than as seen in the video). After all, the male’s collar is a dark orange-red while that of the female is yellow-orange LINK. Admittedly, in practice it is not that easy to distinguish the sexes as the colour varies.

“And according to Dr Christine Fletcher who is studying insectivorous bats at the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia in Kepong, Malaysia, the only sure way of verifying the sexes is to look at the genitals. Unfortunately there were no opportunities to do so as far as these two adults were concerned.

“Whatever the sex of the two adults, the pup appeared comfortable with both, sometimes ending in the embrace of one and at other times in the embrace of the other adult (above, below).

“The three were even seen all clustered together (below).

“Towards the latter part of the video, the roost saw more bats flying in, interrupting the confrontation between these three (two adults and pup) and the alpha male. Finally the two adults flew off from the perch, followed by the pup.

“According to Crichton & Krutzsch (2000), both sexes take care of the young and males play an active role in lactation and feeding the young. And males of some species of fruit bats have functional mammary glands (Francis et al., 1994).

“So it is possible that the two adults involved with the pup were a male and a female.”

YC Wee
7th September 2014

Crichton, E. G. & P. H. Krutzsch (2000). Reproductive Biology of Bats. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
2. Francis, C. M., E. L. P. Anthony, J. A. Brunton & T. H. Kunz (1994). Lactation in male fruit bats. Nature 367: 691-692.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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