IUCN threat status:

Least Concern (LC)

Comprehensive Description

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Comprehensive Description for Welwitsch's bat

Welwitsch's bat (Myotis welwitschii) is a relatively large member of the vesper bat family (family Vespertilionidae), which is the largest and most prominent family of bats with over 300 species. While the vesper bat family is quite species rich, members of the genus Myotis, commonly known as mouse eared bats, are exceedingly rare, among the rarest of African bats (Sedláček et al. 2006). Myotis welwitschii is characterized by its pinkish elongated snout, coppery red rounded tragus, and chestnut brown body with off-white under parts. What truly distinguishes Welwitsch’s bat is its strikingly dichromatic (dual colored) red and black mottled wing membranes. Welwitsch’s bat is relatively large for its genus, measuring approximately 10 to 12 centimeters in length, and weighing between 12 and 17 grams (Ratcliffe, 2002). The species also exhibits slower movement and a broader wingspan, on average, than other mouse eared bats (Fenton et al., 1977). Welwitsch’s bat is native to South Eastern Africa with reported sightings in Angola, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The species, despite having such a vast geographic range, is sparsely distributed throughout the area with only a handful of recorded sightings. Welwitsch’s bat resides is most commonly found in dry woodlands and the savannah, but can be observed in a variety of habitats, including montane tropical moist forests, both dry and moist savannas, shrublands, and high altitude grasslands (Jacobs, 2008). The bat will almost always roost solitarily in trees, caves and dense vegetation, and will sometimes be spotted in artificial structures. Welwitsch’s bat is an insectivorous species of bat whose primary diet consists of moths, beetles, and other insect species (Jacobs, 2008). Like most other bat species, it is a nocturnal hunter which relies heavily on echolocation to seek out its prey (Fenton et al., 1977). Predators of Welwitsch’s bat include various bird species such as hornbills and bat hawks, but may not be limited to carnivorous bird species. The mating habits of this species are rather enigmatic as a result of limited observational data with only a single recorded instance of paired roosting. Other species within the genus of mouse eared bats tend to be seasonal breeders, mating from late spring to summer and will typically rear between 1 to 2 offspring (Wang, 2002). While the average lifespan and exact age of reproductive maturity of Welwitsch’s bat remains unknown, it is likely to be quite similar to that of other species of mouse eared bats at approximately 6-7 years and 1.5 years respectively (Wang, 2002). Welwitsch’s bat is currently classified as a least-concern species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The species falls in this category in view of its expansive distribution, presumed large population, and the improbability of fast decline. Welwitsch’s bat is relatively obscure in the field of mammalian ecology, and has yet to be truly understood. With further observation and study we may come to better understand the relatively rare bat species’ biological significance.


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© Jesse Davidson; Generated during ENV 201 at Arizona State University. Editor: Becky Ball

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