Until 1965, Mystacina robusta was only known to have existed on Big South Cape and Solomon Islands in New Zealand. Subfossils in swamps and caves in the North and South Islands suggest its range was much larger several hundred years ago (King, 1990). Several hundred bats of this species occupied a cave at Puwai on Big South Cape Island until 1964-65. A couple of larger caves on Solomon Island were occupied until the 1950's.
Biogeographic Regions: oceanic islands (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
It is known from subfossil remains on both North Island and South Island. By the time of European arrival, c.200 years ago, the species was probably already restricted to small islands off the coast of Stewart Island.
Mystacina robusta was a medium-sized and extremely robust bat species. Average size is about one-third larger than their congener, lesser short-tailed bats Mystacina tuberculata. Individuals had stocky bodies with prominent, pointed ears and nostrils and a set of short whiskers. The short tail penetrated the tail membrane on its dorsal surface. The hind legs and feet were very robust, positioned under the body for quadrupedal locomotion on the ground. The fur was dark brown. Mystacina robusta was about 90 mm in total length, with a wingspan of about 290-310 mm. The tail measured approximately 15 mm and the species was estimated to weigh 25-35 g (King, 1990).
Range mass: 25 to 35 g.
Range length: 90 (low) mm.
Range wingspan: 290 to 310 mm.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
- King, C. 1990. The Handbook of New Zealand Mammals. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press.
Big South Cape Island, adjacent to Solomon Island, rises to 240 m. The shorelines of both islands are rugged and contain numerous caves. The largest of these caves is at Puwai on the south coast of Big South Cape. This cave was occupied by both species of Mystacina until 1965 (Daniel and Baker, 1986). Individuals were also known to roost in seabird burrows. Mystacina robusta individuals probably foraged in moist forest and muttonbird scrub (Olearia) habitats, as do their smaller relatives, M. tuberculata.
Range elevation: 140 (low) m.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; scrub forest
Other Habitat Features: caves
- Daniel, M., A. Baker. 1986. Collins Guide to Mammals of New Zealand. Auckland, New Zealand: William Collins Publishers Ltd..
Habitat and Ecology
It is not known what exactly the greater short-tailed bat ate. It is believed to have eaten the same wide range of food as its close relative Mystacina tuberculata. These foods include ground and tree-trunk arthropods, fruit, nectar, and pollen. An analysis done on the stomach contents of two greater short-tailed bats revealed the presence of both rata pollen and fern spores (King, 1990). Both species of short-tailed bats were partly carnivorous and ate fat and meat plucked off muttonbirds from time to time. It is also possible that M. robusta ate nestling birds.
Animal Foods: birds; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; terrestrial worms
Plant Foods: fruit; nectar; pollen; flowers
Primary Diet: omnivore
Mystacina robusta does not play any role in the ecosystem of New Zealand because this species is thought to have been extinct for over 40 years. At one time, M. robusta probably played a role as an insectivore, a pollinator of flowers, and a disperser of seeds.
Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds; pollinates
- possibly Mystacinobia
In previous times, some Mystacina robusta may have been killed by laughing owls in the North and South Islands. Rattus exulans is believed to have either caused or assisted the extinction of the greater short-tailed bat in the North and South Islands, as well as Stewart Island. The final extinction of M. robusta is believed to have been caused by ship rats in 1962 and 1963 when they were introduced accidentally on Big South Cape and Solomon Islands (Dowding and Murphy, 19990.
- Rattus exulans
Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic
Life History and Behavior
Mystacina robusta is thought to have gone extinct around 40 years ago. Therefore, no information is known about how it communicated with other bats, or which senses were especially developed. Vision is well developed in the close relative Mystacina tuberculata in order to see the flowers they sometimes feed on. This species also emits a repetitive, high-frequency call that can be heard by the human ear from a distance of up to 50 meters. The hearing of M. tuberculata is also well developed for echolocation in order to locate prey. It is not known how either species of Mystacina communicates with potential mates.
Communication Channels: acoustic ; chemical
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; ultrasound ; echolocation ; chemical
Information on lifespan/longevity for Mystacina robusta is not available.
Mystacina robusta is thought to have been monogamous. Other information regarding their mating system is not known. To attract females, males of the related species, M. tuberculata, fly to hollow trees and call with a repetitive, high-intensity noise which can be heard by the human ear from a distance of 50 meters. Other details of the breeding of M. tuberculata are not known.
Mating System: monogamous
Little is known about the reproduction of this species. They were thought to breed once a year. The time of breeding is not known since this species of bat is thought to have gone extinct about 40 years ago. J.A. Mackintosh found a juvenile specimen on Solomon Island and also observed several nursery colonies with adolescents in hollow rata trees and in the burrows of sooty shearwaters from late April to mid May of 1963-65 (Lloyd, 2001). This suggests that M. robusta had one young per year, born around April-May. This is approximately four or five months later than the birth season of Mystacina tuberculata. The time of mating and details of the reproductive cycle are not known, although mating by M. tuberculata occurs sometime between February and April.
Breeding interval: Greater short-tailed bats bred once yearly.
Breeding season: This information is not known for Mystacina robusta, but its closest relative, Mystacina tuberculata breeds between February and April
Range number of offspring: 1 to 1.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
No information is available about the parental investment of Mystacina robusta. However, as in other bat species, females would have nursed and cared for their single offspring until they became independent.
Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)
It is not known if the effects of ship rats on these bats was the result of predation, competition for food, or continual disturbance of roosting sites. Ship rats readily prey on bats in other areas. Several hundred Mystacina were reported in Puai Cave on Big South Cape, and regular sightings of flying bats were made on both islands as well. In August 1964, the last confirmed M. robusta was collected from Big South Cape. By 1965, there were very few bats at all. J.A. Mackintosh mist-netted the last confirmed M. robusta in 1965 on Solomon Island (Dowding and Murphy, 1999). By 1966, there were no bats on either island.
Mystacina robusta was listed as extinct by the IUCN Red List in 1990.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: no special status
State of Michigan List: no special status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Extinct(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Extinct(IUCN 1990)
Rats continue to be eradicated from all islands in this group, and more surveys for M. robusta are planned (C. O'Donnell pers. comm.).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse effects of Mystacina robusta on humans.
It is not known if or how humans benefited from Mystacina robusta.
New Zealand greater short-tailed bat
The New Zealand greater short-tailed bat (Mystacina robusta) was one of two species of New Zealand short-tailed bats, a family (Mystacinidae) unique to New Zealand. There have been no confirmed sights of this animal since 1967. It lived on the North and South Islands in prehistoric times and historically lived on small islands near Stewart Island/Rakiura. They were also known to live in caves in the Solomon Islands. Short-tailed bats were as adept at scrambling along the ground as they were at flying. Their wings folded into pouches on the sides of their bodies, so the bats could race through burrows or scrub because they use the echolocation to help forage to eat. Adult bats reached a length of 9 cm. The only known photograph shows the bat covered in dark blue fur.
The greater short-tailed bat was widespread throughout New Zealand before the Māori arrived. In historic times, it used seabird burrows as roosts. It flew slowly, never rising more than two or three metres above the ground. It took nectar from flowering plants and was probably partly carnivorous, taking meat and fat off muttonbirds and eating nestling birds. Unlike most bats, they were terrestrial in nature, spending much of their time on the ground.
These bats are the last of its species known to the New Zealand country. One of the biggest threats to this species are rats, the movement of Europeans to New Zealand some 200 years ago. They were on Big South cape Islands which was predator free until 1963 when rats accidentally came to the island.
The breeding interactions of this animal is very limited and believed to have been once a year and possibly in the months of February to April with a 1 to 1 offspring. They tend to not venture vary far from the roosting site and do not leave until 1–2 hours after sunset.
They are doing work with its relative species which is the New Zealand lesser short-tailed bat, where they are using black boxes to pick up some echolocation of this animals to see where they are flying. When doing this study, they are studying the Eglinton Island to see the species trend of this animal. They have thought that the greater short-tailed bat might be in the area as well.
- Chiroptera Specialist Group (1996). Mystacina robusta. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 6 May 2006.
- A Gap in Nature by Tim Flannery and Peter Schouten (2001), published by William Heinemann
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