The sole member of the genusArdops, the tree bat (Ardops nichollsi) is a little-known mammal so named for its habit of roosting amongst the branches of trees (2). The colour of this enigmatic fruit bat is rather variable, but the hairs on the upperparts tend to be tricoloured, being dark brown at the base, creamy-brown in the middle, and pale brown at the tip (3)(4). The underparts are a more uniform, rich brown colour tinged with greyish-white. There is a white spot on the shoulders ahead of each wing, the wing membrane is dark brown, and the tragus and base of the ears are tinged with greenish-yellow. The tree bat also varies quite substantially in size; the female is usually larger than the male, but this difference may be less marked in some parts of the species’ range (3)(5).
A little-studied species, almost nothing is known about the biology of the tree bat. It is said to roost under the branches of trees during the day, and does not take refuge in crevices like most other bat species (3). The capture of six reproductively active females in spring suggests that the breeding season starts around this time (1), while there is also some evidence to suggest that the species may breed twice each year (2).
Very little is known about the habitat preferences of the tree bat, but it is thought to roost exclusively in trees and other tall vegetation (1)(2)(3). This bat has been observed in rainforests, often near cacao groves and over streams, dry scrub forests, banana plantations and botanical gardens (1).
Despite having a fairly restricted distribution, the tree bat is thought to have quite a large population due to a substantial amount of suitable habitat remaining (1). There are no known major threats to this species, although it is vulnerable to the devastating effects of hurricanes, which are a frequent disturbance in the Caribbean (1)(4). Such events can kill bats directly, but can also destroy fruit-trees, causing many bats to starve to death, and also destroy much roosting and foraging habitat (4)(5). After a hurricane on Montserrat in 1989, a 20-fold decrease in bat populations was observed, with smaller fruit- and flower-eating bats such as the tree bat suffering the worst (4). Bat populations can be slow to recover from such declines, rendering them vulnerable to other threats. On St Kitts the tree bat may also be threatened by the capping of natural springs, which can limit the amount of freshwater available to the species to drink (5).
With a rather restricted distribution, a conservation priority for the tree bat is to protect its remaining forest habitat. On St Kitts the mountainous forest along the backbone of the island has been identified as of importance to bat conservation in the region (5), while continuing to conserve the forests on Antigua is also of importance (7).
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A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
A soft cartilaginous projection extending in front of the external opening of the ear. In bats, it plays an important role in filtering returning echoes in echolocation.
Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
Knox Jones, Jr. K. and Genoways, H.H. (1973) Ardops nichollsi. Mammalian Species, 24: 1-2.
Pedersen, S.C., Genoways, H.H. and Freeman, P.W. (1996) Notes on bats from Montserrat (Lesser Antilles) with comments concerning the effects of Hurricane Hugo. Caribbean Journal of Science, 32: 206-213.
Pedersen, S.C., Genoways, H.H., Morton, M.N., Kwiecinski, G.G. and Courts, S.E. (2005) Bats of St. Kitts (St. Christopher), Northern Lesser Antilles, with comments regarding capture rates of Neotropical bats. Caribbean Journal of Science, 41: 744-760.
Pedersen, S. (2010) Pers. comm.
Lindsay, K.C., Kwiecinski, G.G., Pedersen, S.C., Bacle, J-P. and Genoways, H.H. (2010) First record of Ardops nichollsi from Antigua, Lesser Antilles. Mammalia, 74: 93-95.
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