Mediterranean horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale)

Mediterranean horseshoe bat rookery
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Mediterranean horseshoe bat fact file

Mediterranean horseshoe bat description

GenusRhinolophus (1)

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus euryale) is a rare bat species of the Mediterranean region. It belongs to the second biggest genus of bats in the world, the Rhinolophus or horseshoe bats (2) (3).

Bats in the genus Rhinolophus are named for the distinctive horseshoe-shaped fold of skin which forms part of the characteristic noseleaf. A peculiar-looking, complex structure of fleshy skin surrounding the nostrils (4), the noseleaf helps to direct and focus the sound transmitted during echolocation (5). All horseshoe bats have large ears lacking a tragus, relatively short tails, and small eyes which are often obscured by the noseleaf. The wings are broad, with rounded ends (4).

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat is greyish-brown on the back and head and greyish-white or slightly yellowish on the underside. The wing membranes and ears are pale grey-brown (3).

As with other horseshoe bats, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat has a fluttering, butterfly-like or hovering flight (4).

Rhinolophe Euryale.
Murciélago Mediterráneo De Herradura.

Mediterranean horseshoe bat biology

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat is gregarious, gathering in colonies to roost (3) (4) (9). Summer colonies are generally fairly small, usually containing up to a few hundred individuals, while winter colonies are often much larger, sometimes numbering over 2,000 individuals. This species also forms large groups during the breeding season (1) (3). Although the Mediterranean horseshoe bat will roost with many other bats, including bats of other species (9), it usually hunts alone (4).

Breeding typically occurs in late spring, with individual Mediterranean horseshoe bats beginning to gather in breeding colonies from mid-March to early June (3). Gestation lasts for around seven weeks, with the female giving birth to a single young (4). The young are fed on milk produced by the female. The female Mediterranean horseshoe bat also has two additional teat-like projections, known as ‘dummy teats’, to which the young will cling during flight (4). The young Mediterranean horseshoe bat is able to fly after around three weeks (3), and becomes sexually mature after two years (3) (4).

Like all horseshoe bats, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat uses echolocation to detect its prey (2) (4). It feeds mainly on moths and beetles, as well as other small flying insects (2) (9). The Mediterranean horseshoe bat transmits sound through its nostrils, with the sound being directed by the distinctive horseshoe-shaped noseleaf to form a beam (10). The bat uses its large ears to detect the sound that is reflected, enabling it to gather an accurate picture of the objects around it and thus pinpointing its prey (11). Having located its prey, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat captures itin the air, sometimes using its wings like nets, or plucks it from vegetation during flight (2) (9).


Mediterranean horseshoe bat range

As its common name suggests, the Mediterranean horseshoe bat is fairly widespread throughout the Mediterranean region of southern Europe (6). Its range extends from the Iberian Peninsula, south through Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and the Middle East, to Turkmenistan in the east (1) (3) (7).

The most northerly parts of the Mediterranean horseshoe bat’s range include southern France,northern Italy, southern Slovakiaand north-western Romania. This species is absent from several islands within its range, including the Balearic and Canary Islands (3).


Mediterranean horseshoe bat habitat

Broadleaved woodlands have been found to be the one of the most important habitats for the Mediterranean horseshoe bat (6) (8). However, this species will readily forage in a number of different habitats, including other types of woodland, shrubland and riparian vegetation, up to elevations of around 1,000 metres (1). It is often found in valley bottoms (3)

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat will also forage in human-altered habitats, such as olive groves, Eucalyptus plantations and patchy woodland (3), although it generally seems to avoid foraging or roosting in areas dominated by conifers (1).

In the summer the Mediterranean horseshoe bat roosts in natural or artificial underground sites, including attics, caves and mines. During the winter, it typically hibernates in large caves (1).


Mediterranean horseshoe bat status

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Mediterranean horseshoe bat threats

European populations of the Mediterranean horseshoe bat have crashed in recent decades. For example, populations in France reportedly declined by 70 percent between 1940 and 1980. Although the population declines across Europe appear to have stabilised, a number of threats to this species remain (1).

The main threats to the Mediterranean horseshoe bat appear to be the loss of its foraging habitats and disturbance to its underground habitats (1). This species is particularly sensitive to disturbance. Human activities such as urbanisation, tourism and intensive farming are likely to further exacerbate the problem, especially where such activities occur within or close to areas the Mediterranean horseshoe bat requires for roosting, foraging, breeding or hibernating (1) (3) (6).   

Fragmentation of the Mediterranean horseshoe bat’s habitat is also a threat, as this species appears to need continuous linear features, such as hedges or strips of riparian vegetation, to commute between foraging patches (1) (6) (8). The use of pesticides is also known to negatively affect the Mediterranean horseshoe bat (3) (4).


Mediterranean horseshoe bat conservation

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat and some of its roosts are protected in Europe by national legislation (1). It is included in the Bonn Convention (12) and the Bern Convention (13), and it is also listed on Annex II and IV of the EU Habitats and Species Directive (14), which means that protective measures must be taken to ensure its conservation (1).

The Mediterranean horseshoe bat’s habitat receives some further protection through Natura 2000 (15), while the EU LIFE Program, which funds environmental and nature conservation projects throughout the EU, may also benefit this species directly or indirectly in France, Spain and Italy (1) (16). The Mediterranean horseshoe bat is also protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS), which aims to protect all 52 species of bats in Europe through legislation, education, conservation measures and international co-operation (17).

The primary recommended conservation measure for the Mediterranean horseshoe bat is to ensure the protection of its habitat, particularly its underground roost sites and its foraging sites in broadleaved woodlands (6) (8). Correctly managing these sites is essential to ensure this species’ survival (6).

Management activities identified as being important for the conservation of the Mediterranean horseshoe bat include managing logging and coppicing in its foraging habitat, leaving a system of woodland corridors and patches to connect areas of undisturbed woodland, and maintaining riparian vegetation, hedgerows and tree lines (6).

Reforestation of areas with broadleaved trees has also been suggested as an additional measure to counter the negative impact that urbanisation has on this species (6). Similarly, controlling access to caves and mines where the Mediterranean horseshoe bat roosts and hibernates will be essential in minimising levels of disturbance to this species (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

Find out more about the Mediterranean horseshoe bat:

  • Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Find out more about bat conservation:



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A traditional form of woodland management in which trees are cut close to the base of the trunk. Re-growth occurs in the form of many thin poles. Coppiced woodlands are cut in this way on rotation, producing a mosaic of different stages of re-growth.
Detecting objects by reflected sound. Used by bats and odontocete cetaceans (toothed whales, dolphins and porpoises) for orientation and to detect and locate prey.
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.
The state of being pregnant; the period from conception to birth.
A winter survival strategy in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. While hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer.
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.
Relating to the banks of rivers and streams.
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.


  1. IUCN Red List (September, 2011)
  2. Siemers, B.M. and Ivanova, T. (2004) Ground gleaning in horseshoe bats: comparative evidence from Rhinolophus blasii, R. euryale and R. mehelyi. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 56: 464-471.
  3. Goiti, U. and  Aihartza, J.R. (2008) Rhinolophus euryale (Blasius, 1853) Murciélago mediterráneo de herradura. In: Palomo, L.J., Gisbert, J. and Blanco, J.C. (Eds.) Atlas y Libro Rojo de Mamíferos Terrestres de España. Dirección General para la Biodiversidad-SECEM-SECEMU, Madrid. Available at:
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1991) Walker’s Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
  5. Macdonald, D.W. (2006) The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Russo, D., Jones, G. and Migliozzi, A. (2002) Habitat selection by the Mediterranean horseshoe bat, Rhinolophus euryale (Chiroptera: Rhinolophidae) in a rural area of southern Italy and implications for conservation. Biological Conservation, 107: 71-81.
  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. Russo, D., Almenar, D., Aihartza, J., Goiti, U., Salsamendi, E. and Garin, I. (2005) Habitat selection in sympatric Rhinolophus mehelyi and R. euryale (Mammalia: Chiroptera). Journal of Zoology, 266: 327-332.
  9. Goiti U., Aihartza, J.R. and Garin, I. (2004) Diet and prey selection in the Mediterranean horseshoe bat Rhinolophus euryale (Chiroptera, Rhinolophidae) during the pre-breeding season. Mammalia: 68(4): 397-402.
  10. Vaughan, T.A., Ryan, J.M. and Czaplewski, N.J. (2000) Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia.
  11. Neuweiler, G. (2000) The Biology of Bats. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  12. Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (September, 2011)
  13. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (September, 2011)
  14. EU Habitats Directive (September, 2011)
  15. Natura 2000 (September, 2011)
  16. European Commission LIFE Programme (September, 2011)
  17. Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) (September, 2011)

Image credit

Mediterranean horseshoe bat rookery  
Mediterranean horseshoe bat rookery

© Andrea Bonetti /

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