A small bat with long, reddish brown hair flits around the edge of a small, Peruvian banana plantation. The audible signal it just made, echoes back to the small animal. Its ears swivel as it emits another call. Using the echo from both signals it accurately pinpoints the location of a miniscule bug that has been feeding on the plantation workers, its bite causing small, irritating welts that have distracted several workers, making it impossible for them to devote their full attention to caring for the banana trees.
With the continued use of echolocation, the Peter’s Disk-Winged Bat (Thyroptera discifera) tracks the insect’s progress, pursuing it out of the banana plantation and into the denser, wilder rainforest, where it finally catches up with the bug. Without the slightest hesitation, the bat snatches at the insect, catching it between its strong jaws, crushing the exoskeleton between its sharp teeth in one bite before swallowing the insect.
Appetite sated and with the sun starting to rise, the bat wheels its flight, returning to the plantation and flies from one banana tree to the next until it finally finds a curled-up leaf that will protect it while it sleeps the day away. The bat works its way into the leave and uses the suction disks on its feet and thumbs to securely attach itself to the smooth surface. A few minutes later, it’s joined by its colony mates. They spend a few minutes clicking at one another, discussing the night’s events before the warming temp and full bellies lull them to sleep.
Identifying the Peter’s Disk-Winged Bat
With a body length of a mere 37 to 47 mm, the Peter’s Disk-Winged bat may be small, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t mighty. This little guy is an insectivorous machine that spends the bulk of the night devouring small insects, some of which bite humans and could possibly transmit deadly diseases.
The small suction cups on the bat’s thumbs and feet easily identify it as a member of the Thyropteridae family, but knowing the exact branch of the family tree this little guy belongs to is more complicated since Thyropteridae bats bear a remarkable resemblance to one another. Peter’s disk-winged bats have a long snout and small warts on the side of their nostrils which help them direct echolocation signals. Aside from the snout, it seems like their ears take up their entire head. The base of the huge ears extend so far over the bat’s skull, it’s difficult to find their tiny, black eyes which burn with intelligence. The small, round body is covered in long, fine hair that’s a dirty chestnut color.
In a family that consists of really small bats, Peter’s disk-winged bat has the distinction of being the smallest of them all.
This particular species is often confused with the Spix’s disk-winged bat (Thyroptera tricolor.) The best way to tell which species a bat represents is remembering that the Peter’s disk-winged bat has a darker dorsum and lacks the two cartilaginous projections that are located on the Spix’s bat’s calcar.
Peter’s Disk-Winged Bats Living Arrangements
While most microbats prefer roosting in fairly permanent quarters, such as bat boxes, hollowed out trees, caves, the undersides of bridges, Peter’s Disk-Winged bats prefer to live in curled up banana leaves. While no one is clear as to why the bats decided to roost in leaves, it’s clear that this is the reason that they eventually developed suction cups on their extremities. Without the suctions cups, the bats wouldn’t be able to cling to the slick surfaces. The challenge that comes with roosting in the unfurled leaves is that the leaves don’t stay furled for long, so the bats constantly have to relocate.
In addition to banana leaves, the species also roosts in liconia leaves. One specimen was found under one of Guyana’s “eate” palm leaf.
The specie’s range is believed to include:
- Amazonian Brazil
What We Know About Peter’s Disk-Winged Bat
The truth of the matter is that so far, very little data has been collected on this species. Not only is it small and difficult to find, it has also proven itself to be very clever at avoiding the mist nets researchers string up.
We do know that it’s growing more common to catch the occasional glimpse of one of these plants hanging around banana plantations as well as other agricultural productions. This is a good sign. Not only does it indicate that the species has the ability to potentially adapt to a changing habitat, but it also lays the groundwork to ascertain the specie’s economic value, which in turn smooths the way for conservation efforts.
“Peter’s Disk-Winged Bat (Thyroptera discifera.)” iNaturalist. Web. Accessed 7 November 2017. https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/40634-Thyroptera-discifera