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The Neotropical fruit bats (Artibeus) are a genus of bats within the subfamily Stenodermatinae. The genus consists of 21 species, which are native to Central and South America, as well as parts of the Caribbean.
These bats grow to an average length of 5 to 10 cm, and a weight of 10 to 85 g. The fur is colored brown or gray on the top; the bottom side is brighter. In a few species, the faces have four light-colored stripes. The patagium, the skin between the legs, is very small, and they lack a tail – a general characteristic of the fruit bats. The ears are acuminated and like many other leaf-nosed bats the nose bears a small, sharp leaf which is used for echo sounding.
Geographical distribution and habitat
Neotropical fruit bats are found in an area that reaches from the north of Mexico and the Bahamas, to northern Argentina, the Caribbean islands included. They live in different natural habitats and can be found in both forests and grasslands.
Like most bats, Neotropical fruit bats are nocturnal. They sleep in caves, houses, or other hideouts. Some species use large leaves to form "tents", which provide shelter from the weather and hide them from predators. Most species live in large groups. Artibeus jamaicensis – the best studied species – forms groups, consisting of one to three males, three to 14 females, and the shared offspring.
The diet of these bats mainly consists of fruit, but they eat pollen and insects too.
Little is known about the reproduction of many species. A. jamaicensis has a gestation period of usually 112 to 120 days that can be extended up to 180 days due to dormancy. The offspring usually consists of one young, which is weaned after two months and becomes sexually mature at an age of eight to twelve months. Captured bats can live up to ten years.
The island endemic, Artibeus incomitatus, is a critically endangered species according to the IUCN, while Artibeus inopinatus and Artibeus rosenbergii are considered data deficient; the remaining seventeen species are listed as being of least concern.
The genus of the Neotropical fruit bats is divided into three sub-genera (Artibeus, Koopmania, and Dermanura). In some taxonomies these are discrete genera, but sometimes Enchisthenes hartii is integrated in these genera. According Wilson & Reeder (2005), it is differentiated between the following 21 species:
Genus Artibeus - Neotropical fruit bats
- Subgenus Artibeus
- Large fruit-eating bat, Artibeus amplus lives in Colombia, Venezuela, and Guyana.
- Fringed fruit-eating bat, Artibeus fimbriatus has its habitat in southern Brazil, in Paraguay and in the North of Argentina.
- Fraternal fruit-eating bat, Artibeus fraterculus is only known in Ecuador and Peru. The species is endangered.
- Hairy fruit-eating bat, Artibeus hirsutus lives in western Mexico and is endangered too.
- Honduran fruit-eating bat, Artibeus inopinatus is located in Middle America (El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras). It is also an endangered species.
- Jamaican fruit bat, Artibeus jamaicensis is the best explored species. It is spread from the Bahamas and northern Mexico to northern Argentina.
- Great fruit-eating bat, Artibeus lituratus is spread from southern Mexico to northern Argentina.
- Dark fruit-eating bat, Artibeus obscurus lives exclusively in the Amazon Basin.
- Flat-faced fruit-eating bat, Artibeus planirostris
- Subgenus Dermanura
- Andersen's fruit-eating bat, Artibeus anderseni lives in the North of South America (from Peru to French Guiana).
- Aztec fruit-eating bat, Artibeus aztecus is spread from middle Mexico to Panama.
- Bogota fruit-eating bat, Artibeus bogotensis
- Gervais's fruit-eating bat, Artibeus cinereus lives in the Amazon Basin.
- Silver fruit-eating bat, Artibeus glaucus is spread in the North of South America (from Colombia to Bolivia).
- Gnome fruit-eating bat, Artibeus gnomus has its geographical extension from Peru to French Guyana).
- Solitary fruit-eating bat, Artibeus incomitatus is only known on the island Escudo de Veraguas offshore north of Panama. Its conservation status is unknown.
- Pygmy fruit-eating bat, Artibeus phaeotis is known from eastern Mexico, Peru and Guyana.
- Rosenberg's fruit-eating bat, Artibeus rosenbergi
- Toltec fruit-eating bat, Artibeus toltecus is spread from northern Mexico to western Colombia.
- Thomas's fruit-eating bat, Artibeus watsoni lives in Middle America (South of Mexico to Colombia).
- Subgenus Koopmania
- Ronald M. Nowak: Walker's Mammals of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore 1999, ISBN 0-8018-5789-9.