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Giant Golden Crowned Flying Fox

GIANT GOLDEN CROWNED FLYING FOX (Acerodon jubatus)
Image modified from wikipedia
Original image by Gregg Yan

Here is a thing that is true: bats are one of the most adorable animals on the planet. 

Here is another thing that is true: big ol' fruit eating bats are even cuter than regular bats. They look as though someone took the cutest parts of a dog, a cat, and a demon and smooshed them together with a little fuzzy vest.

But - is being super cute enough to win my respect? Let's find out.

Author's Note Dec 2020: This animal review has not fucking aged well

Appearance

The giant golden crowned flying fox is sometimes called a megabat, and is in fact the world's largest bat. The name "flying fox" is not an exaggeration because they're pretty much the size of a small fox, plus they can have an up to five foot wingspan which is absolutely fucking nuts. They weigh around two and a half pounds which doesn't seem like much, but just remember we're talking about a fucking bat here. I know I said that big bats are the cutest bat but this particular species is getting so big it borders on creepy because they look like little teeny men hanging upside down when they sleep

Points: 1/1

Behaviour

Like many bats, the giant golden crowned flying fox spends its nights flying around, and its days sleeping and grooming in a communal roost with a bunch of other bats. What's sort of weird is that the bats that they share space with are not always the same species. One study of bat roosting behaviour focused on a mixed colony of giant golden crowned flying foxes and Malayan flying foxes. I guess my point here is that if different species of bats can live together in harmony, the rest of us can give peace a chance god damnit.

Points: 1/1

Distribution

Bats are pretty cool because they live on the land and also sometimes in the sky, which means they are taking advantage of two different phases of matter for their habitat. That being said, golden crowned flying foxes only live in the Philippines in the woods, and as such have experienced a sharp population decline in recent years. Nobody was really counting them very seriously up until a few decades ago - the only historical numbers we have to go on are a few colonies found in the 1800s that were estimated to have over 100,000 individuals. Current populations for the entire species are around 10,000-20,000 so... yeah, there's definitely less of them now. According to the IUCN, they are endangered, and according to me they're probably not going to be around much longer. 

Points: 0/1

Ecology

As we all learned from that classic documentary on interspecific disease communication, Cujo, bats are known for transmitting some really nasty diseases to other animals. North American bats have a reputation for giving people, pets, and livestock rabies. Golden crowned flying foxes decided to take it up a notch and carry a strain of Ebola. Now, before you go and get your tits twisted and decide that maybe killing the few thousand remaining bats would be for the greater good of man, you should know this: the particular strain of Ebola that the golden crowned flying foxes carry (called the Reston virus) is not pathogenic in humans or farm animals. You could have it right now and not even know it. That's not to say that it couldn't mutate into some kind of 28 Days Later bullshit called Bat Fever and wash the stain of humanity from this earth. Here's hoping.

Points: 0.5/1 to be upgraded to 1 should the Bat Fever manifest and kill us all

Evolution

Genus Acerodon, to which the golden crowned flying fox belongs, also contains four other species of giant bats, and is closely related to genus Pteroptus (also giant bats). In fact, this whole branch of the bat evolutionary tree is gigantic. There's a major split in bat classification between microbats (that is, regular every day bats that fly around and eat bugs and use radar and shit), and megabats (the huge fuck off bats that live in the tropics and eat fruit). But, the megabat group also includes some microbats, which suggests that the original bats were probably small and ate bugs, and the giganto monster bats came later.

Points: 0.5/1 for not being the original bat

Life History

Despite bats making up a good 25% of mammalian diversity on this horrible planet, I still find something really weird about flying mammals? Like??? First of all, how do they give birth hanging upside down in a cave? And what do they do with the babies? Most mammal babies are completely useless, even baby horses and stuff take a few minutes of flopping around before they can get going. Why don't bat babies plummet to their deaths right after they're born? It turns out that bats really do give birth hanging upside down and the mom has to catch the pup before it falls. And just like that, you will never again be impressed by a human's birth story.

Points: 1/1

Interaction with Humans

The golden crowned flying fox doesn't have much in the way of direct interaction with humans. Flying foxes may have been the real-life animal that inspired the Manananggal, a monster of Filipino legend that drinks blood and eats babies at night. So that's pretty cool. They're also pollinators and seed distributors and of no small importance to the persistence of crops, so there has been some big action in the Philippines lately to conserve them.

Points: 1/1

Total Points: 5/7
It turns out that these giant bats have enough going for them to earn my respect. They're big weird freaky creatures and I love them.

Further Reading
  • Batcon: Celebrate the Mom Bats
  • Cantoni D, Hamlet A, Michaelis M, Wass MN, Rossman JS. 2016. Risks posed by Reston, the forgotten Ebolavirus. mSphere. 1(6): e00322-16 [Open Access]
  • De Jong C, Field H, Tagtag A, Hughes T, Dechmann D, Jayme S, Epstein J, Smith C, Santos I, Catbagan D, Lim M, Beningo C, Daszak P, Newman S. 2013. Foraging behaviour and landscape utilization by the endangered golden-crowned flying fox (Acerdon jubatus), the Philippines. PLoS ONE. 8(13): e79665 [Open Access]
  • Hengjan Y, Iida K, Doysabas KCC, Phichitrasilp T, Ohmori Y, Hondo E. 2017. Diurnal behaviour and activity budget of the golden-crowned flying fox (Acerdon jubatus) in the Subic Bay forest reserve area, the Philippines. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. 79(10): 1667-1674
  • IUCN. Flying foxes: myths with more bark than bite
  • Mildenstein T, Paguntalan L. 2016. Acerodon jubatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016. [Link]

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