The Terrifying Appearance Of A Rare Flying Mammal In A Cave
Most bat species have little rodent-like faces but the hammer-headed bat (Hypsignathus monstrosus) is in a league of its own. The odd-looking flying mammal has a super elongated face that has many who see pictures of it on social media question its very existence. Yet despite its larger-than-life appearance, the hammer-headed bat is very much real.
They also known as hammer-headed fruit bat and big-lipped bat, is a megabat widely distributed in West and Central Africa. It prefers lowland moist forests, riverine forests, and swamp forests, as well as mangroves and palm forests where it roosts in the trees.
Unlike what you might imagine for a bat you often see, hammerhead bats are much larger in size. In fact it actually looks like a small moose. This species is the largest species of bat in the mainland Africa. Males have wingspans up to 90.1 cm (2.96 ft), and all individuals have forearm lengths exceeding 112 mm (4.4 in). It has pronounced sexual dimorphism, more so than any other bat species in the world, with males up to twice as heavy as females.
Hammerhead bats look like a creature straight out of a ʜᴏʀʀᴏʀ movie, but in some parts of Africa they are as common as cats. Males overall have boxy heads with enormous lips, while the females, with their narrower snouts, have more foxlike faces. Males and females both have dark brown fur, with a paler mantle (sides and back of neck).
It has patches of white fur at the base of the ears, though sometimes indistinct. The fur is long and smooth, though somewhat woolly in texture on the mantle. The ears are triangular and blackish-brown, and the eyes are very large.
Hammer-headed bats are frugivores. Figs make up much of their diet, but mangos, bananas and guavas may also be consumed. There are some complications inherent in a fruit diet such as insufficient protein intake. It is suggested that fruit bats compensate for this by possessing a proportionally longer intestine compared to insectivorous species.
The main predators of this species are humans and nocturnal and diurnal birds of prey. However, infection by parasites is often the most significant problem for the hammer-headed bat. Adults are often infected with mites and the hepatoparasite, hepatocystis carpenteri. The hammer-headed bat is one of three species of African fruit bat that are thought to serve as reservoirs for the Ebola virus.
Anti-Ebola virus antibodies and viral RNA have been isolated from all three. However, isolation of viral RNA has not been repeated. It is not known whether these species are incidental hosts or a reservoir of Ebola virus infection for humans and other terrestrial mammals.