What Is a Flying Fox?
A flying fox is a kind of bat and is so called because its head somewhat resembles that of the fox. Flying foxes and blossom bats belong in a group scientists call Megabats. They are also often known as ‘fruit bats’ as they love to feed on fruit, flowers and nectar.
Most bats are small and look like winged mice. But they can be as big as little dogs and have a wingspan of up to six feet. Their habits are rather similar to those of ordinary bats, except that they are fond of fruit, a peculiarity which makes them great pests in orchards.
Flying foxes of different species are found in Malaysia, India and other parts of Asia, and in Islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans. Characteristically, all species of flying foxes only feed on nectar, blossoms, pollen, and fruit, which explains their limited tropical distribution. They do not possess echolocation, a feature which helps the other suborder of bats, the microbats, locate and catch prey such as insects in midair.
Instead, smell and eyesight are very well-developed in flying foxes. Feeding ranges can reach up to 40 miles. When it locates food, the flying fox “crashes” into foliage and grabs for it. It may also attempt to catch hold of a branch with its hind feet, then swing upside down; once attached and hanging, the fox draws food to its mouth with one of its hind feet or with the clawed thumbs at the top of its wings.
The large flying fox (P. vampyrus) is generally reported as the largest Pteropus, but a few other species may match it, at least in some measurements. The large flying fox has a wingspan up to 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) and five individuals weighed 0.65–1.1 kg (1.4–2.4 lb). Even greater weights, up to 1.6 kg (3.5 lb) and 1.45 kg (3.2 lb), have been reported for the Indian flying fox (P. giganteus) and great flying fox (P. neohibernicus), respectively.
The black-bearded flying fox (P. melanopogon) is massive and may be heavier than all other megabats, but exact weight data are not available. Comparably, no full wingspan measurements are available for the great flying fox (P. neohibernicus), but with a forearm length up to 206 mm (8.1 in), it may even surpass the large flying fox (P. vampyrus) where the forearm is up to 200 mm (7.9 in). Outside this genus, the giant golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus) is the only bat with similar dimensions.
Most flying fox species are considerably smaller and generally weigh less than 600 g (21 oz). The smallest, the masked flying fox (P. personatus), Temminck’s flying fox (P. temminckii), Guam flying fox (P. tokudae), and dwarf flying fox (P. woodfordi), all weigh less than 170 g (6.0 oz).
The pelage is long and silky with a dense underfur. No tail is present. As the name suggests, the head resembles that of a small fox because of the small ears and large eyes. Females have one pair of mammae located in the chest region. Ears are simple (long and pointed) with the outer margin forming an unbroken ring (a defining characteristic of megabats). The toes have sharp, curved claws.