Jamaican fruit-eating bat (Artibeus jamaicensis)

Jamaican fruit-eating bat in flight, carrying infant
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Jamaican fruit-eating bat fact file

Jamaican fruit-eating bat description

GenusArtibeus (1)

Named for the island from which it was first described (2) (3), the Jamaican fruit-eating bat is a relatively large, thickset bat with short, velvety fur, broad wings and no external tail (2) (3) (4) (5). The head is large, with large eyes, while the ears are pointed, triangular and quite widely separated, and there is a well-developed noseleaf (2) (3) (4). The fur of the Jamaican fruit-eating bat is dark brown, greyish or black on the upperparts, and the individual hairs have white bases, giving a slightly silvery tinge. The underparts are usually paler, and the wings and narrow, naked tail membrane are black or brown. The face usually bears four pale stripes, both above and below the eyes, although these may sometimes be faint (2) (3) (4) (5) (6).

The Jamaican fruit-eating bat shows considerable variation in size across it wide range, and a number of subspecies have been recognised (2) (3) (6) (7). However, there is disagreement over whether one of these, Artibeus jamaicensis planirostris, represents a distinct species (1) (2) (7).

Also known as
common fruit bat, Jamaican fruit bat, Mexican fruit bat.

Jamaican fruit-eating bat biology

As its name suggests, the Jamaican fruit-eating bat feeds mainly on fruit, particularly figs (Ficus species), although some pollen, nectar, flowers, leaves and insects are also taken (2) (3) (4) (5) (8). Fruits are not consumed in the fruiting tree itself, but are instead carried to a nearby feeding roost (2) (3) (5) (8), where the fruit is chewed and the juices swallowed, while any fibrous material is spat out in the form of a chewed pellet (3). Food moves very rapidly through the bat’s digestive system, passing out in under 30 minutes, and this species is believed to be an important seed disperser, especially for figs (2) (4) (5) (9).

The Jamaican fruit-eating bat has a unique breeding pattern, closely tied to seasonal peaks in food abundance (8). In some locations, the species may breed year-round, but in other areas the female usually gives birth twice a year, to a single young at a time, with the births coinciding with periods of peak food availability (usually at the end of the wet season). Although the usual gestation period is 3.5 to 4 months, during the second pregnancy of the year the embryo is able to become dormant, delaying normal development for up to 2 months, so that overall development takes up to 6 months and the young is born when conditions are more favourable. The female mates again soon after giving birth (2) (3) (5) (8). The young bats start to fly at around 31 to 51 days old, and reach adult size after about 80 days. Sexual maturity is reached at 8 to 12 months (2) (5), and this species may live for up to 9 years in the wild (2) (3).

Adult female Jamaican fruit-eating bats usually roost together in small ‘harems’ of up to 14 or more individuals plus their young, defended by one or occasionally two adult males (2) (3) (5) (10). These harems usually roost in tree hollows, or close together in caves, and the male spends much of its time close to the roost site, keeping away rivals. Small groups of bachelor males or juvenile females also form, often roosting in vegetation or in leaf ‘tents’, or in separate parts of caves (4) (5) (8) (10). However, these groups are less stable than the harems and often shift roosting site (8) (10). Juveniles of both sexes leave the harem group before reaching adulthood (2) (5) (8).


Jamaican fruit-eating bat range

The Jamaican fruit-eating bat is widespread across Central and South America, from Sinaloa, Michoacan and Tamaulipas in Mexico, south to Ecuador and Peru. It also occurs in the Caribbean, including the Greater and Lesser Antilles and the southern Bahamas, and in the lower Florida Keys (1) (2) (3) (5) (6). There is some debate about the southern extent of the species’ distribution, with some reporting it to occur as far south as Brazil and Argentina, while others attribute this to a distinct species, A. planirostris (5).


Jamaican fruit-eating bat habitat

This species occurs in a range of habitats, including tropical evergreen forest, seasonal dry forest, cloud forest, and even human-modified habitats such as gardens and plantations (2) (4) (6). It also roosts in a wide variety of structures, including hollow trees, caves, rock fissures, dense vegetation and occasionally buildings, and has even been known to modify large leaves into roosts, biting through the central vein of the leaf so that it folds over to make a ‘tent’ (2) (3) (4) (5) (6). The Jamaican fruit-eating bat has been recorded at elevations up to around 2,135 metres (2) (6).


Jamaican fruit-eating bat status

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Jamaican fruit-eating bat threats

The Jamaican fruit-eating bat is an abundant and widespread species and is not currently considered at risk of extinction (1). No major threats have been identified, although the species is considered destructive to cultivated fruit crops in some areas, and measures are sometimes taken to control it (2) (5).


Jamaican fruit-eating bat conservation

There are not known to be any specific conservation measures currently in place for this common bat. However, it is reported to occur in a number of protected areas throughout its range (1), which may give its populations some measure of protection.

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Cloud forest
A tropical mountain forest, with a high incidence of cloud cover throughout the year.
Evergreen forest
Forest consisting mainly of evergreen trees, which retain leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous trees, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
A fleshy structure surrounding the nose, common to many bats. It is believed to function in focusing echolocation calls (high-pitched calls used in orientation and to locate prey) emitted from the nose.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (July, 2010)
  2. Ortega, J. and Castro-Arellano, I. (2001) Artibeus jamaicensis. Mammalian Species, 662: 1-9. Available at:
  3. Gannon, M.R., Kurta, A., Rodríguez-Durán, A. and Willig, M.R. (2005) Bats of Puerto Rico. Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, Texas.
  4. Emmons, L.H. (1997) Neotropical Rainforest Mammals: A Field Guide. Second Edition. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  5. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  6. Eisenberg, J.F. and Redford, K.H. (1999) Mammals of the Neotropics. Volume 3. The Central Neotropics: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  7. Wilson, D.E. and Reeder, D.M. (2005) Mammal Species of the World. A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. Third Edition. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Available at:
  8. Handley Jr, C.O., Wilson, D.E. and Gardner, A.L. (1991) Demography and Natural History of the Common Fruit Bat, Artibeus jamaicensis, on Barro Colorado Island, Panamá. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 511. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.
  9. Morrison, D.W. (1978) Foraging ecology and energetics of the frugivorous bat Artibeus jamaicensis. Ecology, 59(4): 716-723.
  10. Ortega, J. and Arita, H.T. (1999) Structure and social dynamics of harem groups in Artibeus jamaicensis (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae). Journal of Mammalogy, 80(4): 1173-1185.

Image credit

Jamaican fruit-eating bat in flight, carrying infant  
Jamaican fruit-eating bat in flight, carrying infant

© Claudio Contreras / naturepl.com

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