Moonlight glints off the wings of two medium sized bugs as they fly towards a large rubber tree, determined to start feasting on the leaves. As they fly, they file tiny bits of information away, info they’ll use later to tell the rest of their family trees about how to get to the rubber plantation where a virtual smorgasbord awaits. Once the bugs infest the trees they’ll start mating and laying eggs, seeding the way for future, larger generations to take over the rubber plantation, feasting on the trees until the producer has no choice but to turn to expensive chemical pesticides in order to save the remaining trees.
The scent of the trees is close, only a few more feet and the insects will have completed the first phase of their mission. Suddenly, there’s a series of clicks and a dark shape swoops out of the shadow of tree, flying on silent wings towards the pair of insects. Without the slightest change in wingbeats, it snatches one in its jaws, its sharp teeth shatter the bug’s exoskeleton before the bat swallows the insect. It banks it’s turn, sending out echolocation signals as it changes course, using the returning sound to pinpoint the second bug which, unpassed by the disappearance of its co-worker, is still heading towards the tree that first captured it’s attention. It’s only a few inches closer to the tree. The bat makes a minor adjustment to its course, and picks up the pace, catching the second bug in it’s teeth before it has a chance to land.
Disaster averted. This is one Malaysian rubber plantation that’s safe from a costly insect infestation and it’s all thanks to its shield-faced roundleaf bat population.
What Are Shield-Faced Roundleaf Bats?
One look at the shield-faced roundleaf bat (hipposideros lylei) and it’s easy to see how the name was bestowed upon it. It’s round, flat nose dominates its small face. Unlike noseleaf bats which have a sharply pointed nose that extends, hornlike from their face, the shield-faced roundleaf bat is circular in shape and, though large, does not protrude above, in front, or past its face. If you’re lucky enough to get up close and personal with a
shield-faced roundleaf bat, you’ll notice that while the shield shape only makes up part of this species nose, and that the shield is actually located behind the posterior noseleaf. Females have a considerably smaller shield than the males.
Above its fairly wide skull stretch two broad, triangular shaped ears. The ears, nose, wings, and feet are a great deal darker than the bat’s light brownish gray short fur.
Based on other species of bats who make up the hipposideridae family, the shield-faced roundleaf bat most likely engages in polygamous mating habits with the female acting as the sole caretaker of a single pup. She carries the pup with her while she forages for food until it’s old enough to stay in the roost with other pups while she spends the night hunting.
In addition to consuming massive amounts of insects that would otherwise destroy millions of dollars worth of local crops, the nitrogen rich guano the bat produces also benefits local farmers as it makes a wonderful, organic fertilizer.
Shield-Faced Roundleaf Bat Living Arrangements
At this point, very little research has been done on this particular species, which is kind of surprising since it’s large range should routinely put it into contact with researchers. Colonies have been discovered in:
As a rule, the shield-faced roundleaf bat seems to prefer living in limestone caves. Unlike many of the bat species native to the region, this particular bat has been very adaptable and has done a surprisingly remarkable job adapting to human encroachment. It’s frequently observed hunting in well developed, busy agricultural areas, and it likely spends a great deal of time in nearby durian orchards where it would be able to dine on durian borers and other pests. The species seems to prefer roosting in small colonies of about 100 bats.
While some chiropterologist are concerned that the overall shield-faced roundleaf bat population is in a state of decline at this point, the consensus at this point is that between the species adaptability and large range, it’s likely that the population is in much better shape than other species, therefore no massive conservation efforts have taken place at this point.
Sadly, I wasn’t able to find any close-up photos of shield-faced roundleaf bats with a clear licensing agreement that I was comfortable posting on this blog, however, if you click here, you’ll be taken to a nice picture of a roosting member of the species.
Hall, L.; L. Jadwin and I. Winkelstern 2011. “Hipposideridae” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed November 04, 2017 at http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Hipposideridae/
“Hipposideros lylei: Shield-faced Roundleaf Bat.” Encyclopedia of Life. Web. Accessed 30 October 2017. http://eol.org/pages/328253/overview
“Shield-faced Roundleaf Bat.” Ecology Asia. Accessed 30 October 2017 http://ecologyasia.com/verts/bats/shield-faced-roundleaf_bat.htm
“Shield-nosed leaf-nosed bat (Hipposideros scutinares.)” Wildscreen Arkive. Web. Accessed 30 October 2017. http://www.arkive.org/shield-nosed-leaf-nosed-bat/hipposideros-scutinares/image-G78376.html
Shield-faced Roundleaf Bat.” Thai National Parks. Web. Accessed 30 October 2017
“Shield-faced Roundleaf Bat.” The Website of Everything. Web. Accessed 30, October 2017 http://thewebsiteofeverything.com/animals/mammals/Chiroptera/Rhinolophidae/Hipposideros/Hipposideros-lylei.html