Article by Clancy Hall, conservation biologist
What is a Megabat?
When asked this question, most people may think only of our big flying foxes, however, this group also includes fruit bats (tube-nosed bats) and blossom bats.
The eastern blossom bat (Syconycteris australis) has an almost identical distribution to the eastern tube-nosed bat. In Australia, their range extends in a narrow strip along the eastern seaboard from Cape York Peninsula to central coast NSW.
Blossom bats are Australia’s smallest megabats and have been found to enter torpor (a mild and brief form of hibernation) when at rest. During both summer and winter, they can drop their body temperature to 18°C (from a normal 34.9°C) to conserve energy and then warm themselves up again before a bout of activity!
Although there is still a lot to be learnt about the social behaviour of blossom bats, we know that they lead a fairly solitary life and will vigorously defend their feeding grounds.
As their name suggests, blossom bats specialise in blossoms! The extra-long papillae on their tongue, act like the bristles of a paintbrush to aid in the uptake of nectar. Their fur also has a unique structure that increases its pollen carrying capacity. Like their larger megabat relatives, blossom bats perform a very important role in pollinating our native plant species.
Prime night-time feeding grounds on the Sunshine Coast include hinterland rainforests, coastal heaths and melaleuca swamps, however, they prefer to return to the sub-canopy of cool and moist rainforests (or other dense forest structures) during the day to sleep.
You can help blossom bats by removing weeds from your property that may be smothering native flowering plant species. Land restoration and rehabilitation efforts are ongoing in reserves to maintain connectivity and corridors between coastal and hinterland habitats. Both of these activities will greatly benefit many of our native species, including our tiniest of batty pollinators!