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Biology

During the day, the Madagascan flying fox roosts in large, noisy groups of up to several thousand individuals in the canopy of favoured roost trees. The noise of the colony intensifies if disturbed, and when a potential predator is sighted, such as the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), alarm calls can cause the whole colony to take to flight. The body temperature is regulated by hanging with wings outstretched to absorb heat when it is cool, and licking the wings whilst hanging them outstretched to provide evaporative cooling when warm (2). Leaving the roost at dusk to forage, these bats may fly up to 34 kilometres to find food (6). Several 'scouts' fly ahead of the main group to locate suitable fruiting trees, navigating using their excellent vision rather than by echolocation. Fruit juice dominates the diet, although nectar, pollen and leaf matter are also eaten (2) (6) (7). These bats are therefore important agents in pollination and seed dispersal of endemic Malagasy plants (2) (4) (6) (8). During the mating season, (April and May), dominant male bats hold territories on the roost tree which they patrol to exclude other males. A collection of female bats will roost within their territory and mating takes place hanging upside-down from tree branches (4). Females give birth in October, normally to a single pup, but very occasionally to twins (2) (5).

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