Fruit Bats – flying dachshunds

There are several species of flying foxes or fruit bats in Australia. The group is quite common all along the western rim of the Pacific Ocean. In Cairns (pronounced “cans”) the spectacled fruit bat is the most common of the bats. I have always wanted to get a good image of them hanging out during the day or flying as dusk approaches. To my mind these animals look like small dogs hanging by their rear feet in the trees; the same might be said for the epauletted fruit bats of Africa. Here are a few attempts from this evening.

There are thousands of fruit bats hanging in downtown Cairns; they are a real highlight as they start to fly, drawing tourists and locals every night. But if you live here and have to walk the sidewalks or park under one of their roost trees you are not fond of them. The City Council is lopping branches to make the trees less suited to the bats daytime use and to (perhaps) thin out the concentrations at a minimum. The droppings will burn the leaves of the tree leaving some branches bare; but most of the bats in downtown Cairns roost within the foliage.
Though the spectacles don’t show very well this is a spectacled fruit bat. The ruff of light fur is also characteristic. They will fly up to 40 miles each night to eat fruit and carry pollen as they move from plant to plant. They are very important pollinators seed spreaders in tropical forests.
This image isn’t perfect but it does show that the wing is built like a human hand with long thin fingers which are encased in a thin skin of webbing. Just like whales, seals, and humans; the flying fox hand is that same old mammal design we are familiar with. 
As the sun sets thousands of fruit bats head off toward whatever is fruiting at the moment. This image shows them going west in the same area from which they have always gone east and south. Somehow they learn. Somehow they change. Perhaps the noise, and there is a lot of it, that emanates from the trees was dusk settles in is the exchange of information about who ate what last night. The fruit bat “yelp” system may be active every evening as the sun goes down.

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