Honduran White Bat

Ectophylla alba

Last updated: April 6, 2021
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff


Honduran White Bat Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Mammalia
Order
Chiroptera
Family
Phyllostomidae
Genus
Ectophylla
Scientific Name
Ectophylla alba

Honduran White Bat Conservation Status

Honduran White Bat Locations

Honduran White Bat Locations

Honduran White Bat Facts

Name Of Young
Pup
Group Behavior
  • Colony
Fun Fact
The bat only eats figs.
Estimated Population Size
Unknown, but declining
Biggest Threat
Habitat loss
Most Distinctive Feature
Its all white fur
Other Name(s)
Caribbean white tent-making bat
Gestation Period
Three weeks
Litter Size
One
Diet
Omnivore
Favorite Food
Figs
Type
Mammal
Common Name
White bat
Location
Central America

Honduran White Bat Physical Characteristics

Colour
  • Yellow
  • White
Skin Type
Fur
Top Speed
20 mph
Lifespan
Unknown, but related species have been known to live between seven and 18 years in nature.
Weight
.20 ounces
Length
1.46 to 1.85 inches, with 4-inch wingspan
Age of Sexual Maturity
35 days
Age of Weaning
20 days

Honduran White Bat Images

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The Honduran white bat makes little “tents” out of the leaves of the heliconia plant, then rests in them during the day.

They make sure they build their nests a short distance from a particular type of fig tree, for the bat only eats the fruit of this tree. Once the tent is built, it can hold up to 15 of the tiny bats. Males visit female roosts to mate, but other than this, adult males and females live separately.

5 Incredible Honduran White Bat facts!

  • The Honduran bat is one of a handful of bats whose fur is completely white.
  • It creates tents by biting through the ribs of tree leaves.
  • It only eats the fruit of one type of fig tree.
  • It has a yellow nose, lips, and ears because carotenoids, the pigments that give carrots their orange color, are deposited in these areas of the bat’s body.
  • It has a nose shaped like a leaf. Some scientists believe this helps the bat in echolocation. Since it flies at night and its eyesight isn’t too good, echolocation helps the bat find food.

Honduran White Bat Scientific name

The scientific name of the Honduran white bat is Ectophylla alba. It is the only species in its genus Ectophylla, which means “out-leaf” in Greek. This describes the animal’s nose. Alba is derived from the Latin word “albus” and means ”white.” This describes the bat’s fur.

Honduran White Bat Appearance

This little bat is distinguished by its all-white fur and leaf-shaped nose. It has no tail, and it ranges from 1.46 to 1.85 inches in length, with a wingspan of about 4 inches. Its ears are large and round and serrated around the edges, with four to five tiny lobes. The edge of the nose is also saw-toothed, and it has what appears to be tiny warts beneath its mouth. Males are believed to be slightly larger than females. The bat’s weight is about .20 ounces, and it has 28 teeth.

Honduran white bats (Ectophylla alba), Costa Rica

Honduran White Bat Behavior

One of the most fascinating things this small, flying mammal does is construct leaf tents. They make them mostly out of the leaves of heliconias, a large tropical flowering plant. The bat uses its teeth to cut out the side veins that grow out of the rib of the plant’s large leaves. This causes them to fold over and form a tent.

It takes some weeks to build tents. The bat needs to build them again and again, for shaping the leaf this way greatly shortens the leaf’s normal lifespan. Females have been seen making tents, and they sometimes build them together. Scientists assume that males build tents as well.

The bat prefers younger leaves because they are easier to manipulate and bite through. An ideal leaf is less than 6.6 feet above the ground, between 2.6 and 3.9 feet long. The bat also prefers their tent to be in an area where there aren’t too many plants in the understory but a high density of plants in the upper canopy. The former makes it easier for the bat to leave the tent, and the latter protects the tent and its occupants from the weather. Bats build a series of tents and alternate between them. It prefers to build tents next to its food source, a fig tree.

A Honduran white bat is very hard to see in its tent because a trick of the sunlight turns their fur the same green color as the leaf. Scientists also believe that the sight of the white fur mimics a wasps’ nest, and this deters predators.

Tents usually hold five female bats and one male who mates with all of them before he flies off to a bachelor colony. A larger tent can hold as many as 15 bats.

Honduran White Bat Habitat

The bat’s preferred habitat is the wet tropical forests found in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, and Honduras. It is found between sea level and 2297 feet above sea level. A bat’s home range is about 63.2 hectares, though the animal isn’t territorial and won’t fight for the right to own a particular tent. The tropical rain forests of Central America are ideal because the warm and humid climate allows the figs the bat eats to be available all year.

Honduran White Bat Diet

The Honduran white bat specializes in figs, especially the fruit of the Ficus colubrinae tree. If it can’t find fruit on this type of fig, it will use other fig trees such as Ficus schippii. F. colubrinae is able to produce a lot of fruit and produce it year-round, but scientists aren’t quite sure how the bat can stay healthy on such a limited diet.

Honduran White Bat Predators and threats

The Honduran white bat is considered a “new” species because it was only discovered in 1892, then discovered all over again in 1963. As of 2021, its population is in decline, largely because of habitat destruction as the forests where it lives are converted into farmland and suburbs. The Honduran white bat’s conservation status is considered near-threatened.

The bat’s predators are carnivores that can find and reach their roosts, either by flying or climbing. These include owls and other birds of prey, snakes, and monkeys including squirrel monkeys and capuchin monkeys.

The Honduran white bat does not seem to be subject to parasites or diseases that attack them specifically. Their tents protect them from rain, wind, and the heat of the sun. Mortality seems to come largely from predation.

Honduran White Bat Reproduction and Life Cycle

The Honduran white bat breeds during the warmer, wetter months in Central America. Females release pheromones to signal their readiness to mate. One male mates with the females in a roost then returns to his bachelor colony when they give birth. All the females in the roost give birth around the same time. After about three weeks of pregnancy, each female has one baby or pup.

A baby bat can weigh a third of the mother’s weight when they’re born, yet they cling to her body until they are simply too heavy to carry. When this happens and the mother must leave the roost to look for food, the other females will take care of her baby and even nurse it.

Pups are weaned and flying at 20 days. They are completely independent when they are 35 days old and can scarcely be told from an adult.

Though scientists aren’t sure how long Honduran white bats live in the wild, a similar species can live as long as 19.5 years while in captivity.

Honduran White Bat Population

The population of the Honduran white bat is unknown, but it is understood that its population is in decline because of habitat loss.

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Honduran White Bat FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Are Honduran white bats carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

The Honduran white bat is distinctive because it is none of those things. It is a frugivore, which means it only eats fruit. In this case, it only eats the fruit of a certain fig tree found in Central America.

What is a Honduran white bat?

A Honduran white bat is a type of bat found in Central America. A bat is the only mammal that is capable of truly flying, and its hands and forelimbs have evolved into leathery wings. The Honduran white bat is notable for its all-white fur. It is one of only six bat species that have all-white fur, and there are about 1300 bat species. It’s also famous for making tents out of heliconia leaves.

Can you have a Honduran white bat as a pet?

Besides the legality of actually owning a Honduran white bat, it would be very difficult to keep one happy and healthy in captivity. The owner would need to replicate the temperature and humidity of the bat’s rainforest home very closely and make sure the animal had a steady diet of figs from the F. colubrinae tree. It also will need lots of room to fly. It’s unlikely a white bat would live a long, healthy life as a household pet.

Are there any white bats in Honduras?

There is still a population of white bats in Honduras.

Are white bats dangerous?

Honduran white bats are not dangerous. Biologists who have handled them have described them as timid and sweet-natured. The chance of a Honduran white bat being rabid are quite small. They are far more endangered than dangerous.

Are Honduran white bats endangered?

Honduran white bats are not considered endangered, but their status is near threatened because the forests where they live are being destroyed. Their situation is also precarious because they depend so utterly on the fruit of only one type of tree.

Sources
  1. Bat Conservation International, Available here: https://www.batcon.org/bat/ectophylla-alba-2/
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honduran_white_bat
  3. Animal Diversity Web, Available here: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Ectophylla_alba/
  4. Smithsonian Magazine, Available here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/mama-bats-literally-nudge-their-babies-out-roost-180970670/

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