Although it’s most commonly spotted in the islands that make up the American Samoa, the Samoan flying fox bat has a large range that extends all the way to Fiji and Polynesia.
By flying fox standards, the Samoan flying fox bat is small. It weighs just one pound and the adult wing span measures just three feet. The species has highly developed basal ledges seem more evolved than most other flying fox species. The fur covering the bat’s head can be light brown or gray in color while the body is a lovely shade of russet. Their face is slightly softer than other flying foxes, making it look a bit less like a member of the canine family.
Like all flying foxes, this species diet consists of mainly fruit, experts have observed it routinely feeds on the fruit from thirty-three different types of native plants. They’ve also noticed that when it’s unable to find fruit, it will chew leaves and even sip nectar.
Experts worry that the number of Samoan flying fox bats is in a state of decline, but due to the large range, they’ve had a difficult time determining just how quickly the numbers are decreasing. For now, the species is listed as near threatened. The biggest advantage of the status is that it’s no longer legal to kill and export the bats a commercial food, which drastically decreased the number of bats killed each year by hunters. Some hunting does still occur, but for local use only and protected areas have been set aside for the bat.
There are three things that set the Samoan flying fox bat apart from other species.
The first is that it’s a keystone species. Losing the species would result in a serious decline in the land’s ability to reseed and even pollinate. They prefer secondary growth forests where their ecological benefits are put to good use. This is one of the reasons experts are concerned about the declining numbers. As researchers spend more time with flying foxes and other fruit bats, they’re realizing that they’re far more important to the eco-system than anyone every fully believed.
Second, archeological evidence suggests that the Samoan flying fox bat land mammals that are actually native to region. Interestingly enough, the other two species also happen to be bats. It’s believed that it was this species of bat that plays a key role in the native legend about Nafanua. In the native tongue, the species is called pe’a.
The final, and perhaps most fascinating, feature that makes the Samoan flying fox bat so interesting is that it is one of only a handful of bat species that’s monogamous. Not only do the males tend to stick to one mate, they’re also very territorial. The gestation period for this particular species is five months, and mothers nurse their young until the pup is approximately ¾ her size.
The U.S. Endangered Species Act has categorized the Samoan flying fox bat as a Category 2 Candidate Endangered Species.
Samoan Flying Fox Bat Photo acquired via the National Park of American Samoa https://www.nps.gov/media/photo/gallery.htm?id=EE407690-155D-4519-3EBCD6903FA6E056 Photo Public Domain