The large-eared horseshoe bat can be identified by its long, fine, greyish-brown hair which is often streaked with white hairs on the upperparts, and is paler in colour on the underside (3). Two forms of the large-eared horseshoe bat are currently recognised: a large form and a smaller form. The larger form, often referred to as the greater large-eared horseshoe bat, has particularly enormous ears that are much larger than the bat’s head, and the skin of the ears and face is often tinged with yellow or orange. The smaller form, or lesser large-eared horseshoe bat, lacks any yellowish tinge on the face and its fur is often more grey in colour (2). As is characteristic of the horseshoe bats, the large-eared horseshoe bat has a flight pattern similar to that of a butterfly and an ability to hover, which it often does when catching prey on tree branches (4).
The diet of the large-eared horseshoe bat includes moths and some insects which (4), like most horseshoe bats, it forages for close to the ground (7). Horseshoe bats tend to hunt at night, later than other bats, using echolocation to detect the fluttering of the prey’s wings (8).
Little is known about the reproductive habits of the large-eared horseshoe bat; however, it is considered to be similar to that of most horseshoe bats. On average one offspring is produced per year after a gestation period of seven weeks, and sexual maturity is typically reached at two years of age (8). In horseshoe bat species it has been noted that the young tend to roost together whilst the adults are solitary; it is thought that this is to compensate for the juveniles’ lack of fat and thus warmth (7). The large-eared horseshoe bat is thought to roost in colonies of one to six individuals (2), and has also been observed roosting with the eastern horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus megaphyllus) (4).
The primary habitat of the large-eared horseshoe bat is rainforests (6). During the day, when roosting, it can be found hanging from the ceiling of caves and old mines - an unusual behaviour as most other horseshoe bats tend to hang from the walls (4).
The main threat to the large-eared horseshoe bat is the destruction and disturbance of caves in which it roosts. Throughout the bat’s native land, many of its roosting caves are opened to the public for exploration or are being reopened for mining. Both of these disturbances mean that it is not always possible for the bats to roost there during the day. The hunting grounds of the large-eared horseshoe bat are also being cleared of vegetation and cover to make way for agricultural developments, resulting in a lack of suitable hunting grounds for the bats and, ultimately, a lack of prey. Despite its global classification as a species of Least Concern, in Australia this species is classified as Endangered (3)
Between 2001 and 2005, a recovery plan was implemented in Australia for cave-dwelling bats which involved the large-eared horseshoe bat as well as two other species. The main aim was to ensure suitable locations were protected to allow the bats to roost and breed undisturbed. Further studies into the ecological needs of these species were also undertaken, so as to help inform future conservation plans (2). The large-eared horseshoe bat is found in protected areas in both the Philippines and Australia (1), such as the Wet Tropics World Heritage area (9), which will hopefully help protect some populations of this species.
Thomson, B., Pavey, C. and Reardon, T. (2007) National Recovery Plan for Cave-dwelling Bats, Rhinolophus philippinensis, Hipposideros semoniandTaphozous troughtoni2001-2005. Environment Australia, Canberra.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts. (2010) Rhinolophus philippinensis (large form).In: Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat.
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