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Black flying fox
The black flying fox, Pteropus alecto, is a bat in the family Pteropodidae. It is among the largest bats in the world, but is considerably smaller than the largest species in its genus, Pteropus. The black flying fox is native to Australia, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. It is not a threatened species.
Juvenile specimens of this species from Moa Island in Torres Strait have been described as a separate species, Pteropus banakrisi. This supposed species was known as the "Torresian flying fox" or "Moa Island fruit bat".
The black flying fox has short black hair with a contrasting reddish-brown mantle, and a mean forearm length of 164 mm (6.46 in) and a mean weight of 710 g (1.57 lb). It is one of the largest bat species in the world, and has a wingspan of more than 1 m.
Black flying foxes are native to Australia (New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Western Australia), Papua New Guinea (Western Province) and Indonesia (West Papua, Sulawesi, Sumba, and Savu).
During the day, individuals reside in large roosts (colonies or 'camps') consisting of hundreds to tens of thousands of individuals. They sometimes share their roosts with the grey-headed flying fox (Pteropus poliocephalus), the spectacled flying fox (P. conspicillatus), and/or the little red flying fox (P. scapulatus). They roost in mangroves, paperbark swamps, patches of rainforest and bamboo forests, and very rarely in caves or underneath overhangs.
Black flying foxes breed once a year. A single young is born and carried by its mother for the first month of life, after which it is left behind in the roost when the mother is out foraging at night.
Black flying foxes eat pollen and nectar from native eucalyptus, lilypillies, paperbark and turpentine trees. When native foods are scarce, particularly during drought, the bats may take introduced or commercial fruits, such as mangos and apples. This species had been known to travel up to 50 km (31 mi) a night in search of food. In residential areas, the species has adapted to eating introduced Cocos Palm trees as a substitute for scarcer native species - and now accounts for around 30% of the animals' food source. However, the high acidity of the palm fruits can prove toxic and may lead to death.
The black flying fox is not listed as threatened on the IUCN Red List; nevertheless, the species is exposed to several threats, including loss of foraging and roosting habitat, and mass die-offs caused by extreme temperature events. When present in urban environments, black flying foxes are sometimes perceived as a nuisance. Because their roosting and foraging habits bring the species into conflict with humans, it suffers from direct killing of animals in orchards and harassment and destruction of roosts.
As a disease vector
Negative public perception of the species has intensified with the discovery of three recently emerged zoonotic viruses that are potentially fatal to humans: Australian bat lyssavirus, Hendra virus, and Menangle virus. However, only Australian bat lyssavirus is known from two isolated cases to be directly transmissible from bats to humans.
Flying foxes often come to the attention of Australian wildlife care and rescue organisations, such as Wildcare Australia, Orphan Native Animal Rear and Release Association Incorporated, Wildlife Carers Darling Downs, Bat Care, Bat Rescue, Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, and WIRES when reported as injured, sick, orphaned or abandoned. A very high proportion of adult flying fox injuries are caused by entanglement in barbed wire fences or loose, improperly erected fruit tree netting, both of which can result in very serious injuries and a slow, agonizing death for the animal if not rescued quickly.
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- Welbergen, J.; Klose, S.; Markus, N.; Eby, P. (2008). "Climate change and the effects of temperature extremes on Australian flying-foxes". Proceedings. Biological sciences / the Royal Society 275 (1633): 419–425. doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1385. PMC 2596826. PMID 18048286.
- Welbergen, J. (2008). "Variation in twilight predicts the duration of the evening emergence of fruit bats from a mixed-species roost". Animal Behaviour 75 (4): 1543–1550. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.10.007.