Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 68 – The Mexican Long-nosed Bat

Mexican long-nosed bat “Each species on our planet plays a role in the healthy functioning of natural ecosystems, on which humans depend”
William H. Schlesinger

The feeding habits of the Mexican long-nosed bat are directly related to its decline. They are nocturnal nectar feeders and pollinators who favour desert plants such as agave, saguaro, cardon and organ pipe.  A long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship exists between the plants and the long-nosed bats.

Agaves are being harvested for the production of tequila and other alcohol related beverages.  The plants are harvested in such a way, they are incapable of regenerating. Once lost, there will be no plants for the long-nosed bats to pollinate, and, naturally, no pollen dispersed and the plants will cease to spread.

This dependence on bats is known as chiropterophily.  Should the bats then be lost through insufficient food, the whole ecosystem of the desert would be compromised and may eventually be lost altogether.

The Mexican long-nosed bat grows up to almost four inches and weighs a mere one ounce.  It has wing span of fourteen inches and can fly up to fourteen miles per hour.  It has pale-brown to grey fur with black wings, and has a long muzzle with a prominent triangular-shaped nose leaf at the tip.  It can live up to twenty years.

When the spring comes and it is time to birth pups, the bats migrate to the Sonoran Desert region.  Only one pup will be born to each mother, but thousands of pups will occupy the same cave.  This creates a care-sharing system allowing some mothers to leave the cave to feed whilst others stay and ‘babysit’.  The pups nurse for about four to five weeks, after which they are ready to fly.

During the day, they roost in caves and mines, away from the heat of the sun.   At night, they can be located near pine-oak and deciduous forest and any desert scrubland which offers a variety of plants and cacti.
They can be found all the year round in Mexico.  During the summer months, they can also be seen in the United States.
What they eat
Nectar and pollen from night-blooming desert plants.  These include saguaro, cardon and organ pipe, and several species of wild agave.
Human disturbance (the  long-nosed bat roosts in large colonies, so the disruption of one habitat can affect thousands of individuals at the same time),  land clearance for agriculture and extensive harvesting of wild agaves for alcohol production.  In Mexico, long-nosed bats are often associated with the problems of vampire bats, and wrongly thought to be a predatory species as opposed to a beneficial species.   As a result, they are killed by the farmers who come across them.
Status: Endangered
The Mexican long-nosed bat  (Leptonycteris nivalis)  is listed on the  IUCN Red List of Threatened Species  as Endangered.  It was listed as endangered in 1988 by the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  The States of Texas and New Mexico listed this species as endangered in 1988 and 1990, respectively.  Mexico listed the long-nosed bat as endangered in 1991 under the Mexican Endangered Species Act.
Due to the migratory nature of the Mexican long-nosed bat, and the fact they are so rare, it has been difficult to estimate numbers.  But, the general consensus is; the population is declining rapidly.


15 thoughts on “Fast Fact Attack: Endangered Species No. 68 – The Mexican Long-nosed Bat

  1. Yet another creature maligned and misunderstood. I hope that this species is free of White-nose syndrome in Mexico, but it is worrying that they spend the summer in the USA. As pollinators, humankind utterly depends on them but at the same time they are recklessly destroying their habitat. I hope that conservation programmes will curb their vanishing rate. Thank you for these enlightening facts, Amelia.

    • It all seems to come down to greed again. Carmen. Their preferred food is rendering a very tidy profit for some. I think this species has so far avoided White-nose syndrome, lets hope it stays that way.Such a devastating disease which does seem to be extending its range. ~ Amelia 🙂

      • You made me research more and now i know that the aguamiel (honey water) of the agave not only is used for tequila production but also as an alternative sweetener. How true, Amelia, and how sorrowful, corporate callous interests keep sweeping species off the face of the earth. With such high demand, irresponsible harvesting and chiropterophily, the whole desert eco-system will vanish!.

        • Oh! I didn’t know about the sweetener, Carmen. Thank you for that. Between this and all the illegal logging and slash-and-burn agriculture in Asia, we are not only destroying innumerable ecosystems (I use the word ‘we’ very loosely) but are doing it at an alarming rate. I feel the more I learn, the more horrified I become. With the little bats, I think these people do understand what they are doing, and if they continue, they know their ‘supplies’ are going to run out. But, in my view, they are just grabbing as much as they can whilst they can, regardless of the consequences. After which they will move on to some other money making scheme, again at the expense of wildlife and the planet. Sadly, neither the well-being of other species, or the future, is of any importance to them.

  2. I lived in AZ for eleven years and have never seen nor heard of this bat! Arizona is in the Sonoran Desert would these bats be there also?

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