Meet Africa’s Largest Bat, A Hammer-Headed Creature That Eats Only Fruit And Mates In Large Groups

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The hammer-headed bat is the most important bat species present in Africa. However whereas it might seem like a vicious carnivore, it solely eats fruit.

All through Equatorial Africa, the Hypsignathus monstrosus — higher often known as the hammer-headed bat — dominates the evening sky with its monstrous wingspan and its pestilently loud noises. As one of many largest bats on the planet, one would suppose that it will be a risk to humankind, particularly because it cuts such an imposing determine.

Hammer Headed Bat

Wikimedia CommonsResearchers fitted this hammer-headed bat with a GPS tracker.

Whereas feminine hammer-headed bats look just like different species of bats, the males are way more distinguishable because of their outsized lips and snouts. This distinctive look has even brought about them to be dubbed one of many world’s “ugliest” creatures.

However regardless of its larger-than-life presence, the bat is nothing greater than a fruit lover, subsisting solely on wild fruits indigenous to western and central Africa and serving no risk to people or different animals.

That mentioned, the hammer-headed bat is a risk in one other, maybe extra stunning manner.

The Candy Life Of Africa’s Hammer-Headed Fruit Bat

With wingspans of as much as 38 inches and weighing in at round a pound, the hammer-headed bat is Africa’s largest bat, in keeping with Bat Conservation International. It’s additionally probably the most sexually dimorphic bat species on the planet.

The typical feminine weighs eight ounces and doesn’t seem all that totally different from different fruit bats. Males, nevertheless, develop a lot bigger and have faces that clearly set them aside. Their larynx and rostrum are enlarged, making a resonating chamber that makes it simpler for them to create the loud honking noises that entice the females.

Illustration Of A Hammer-Headed Bat

Public AreaThis illustration of a hammer-headed bat appeared in The American Museum Congo Expedition Assortment of Bats c. 1917.

The bats have been noticed from Senegal in Western Africa to northern Angola, practically 3,000 miles to the southeast. They thrive within the moist, tropical forests surrounding Equatorial Africa’s lowlands, swamps, and rivers.

Hammer-headed bats feast on the fruit that grows within the space, together with figs, bananas, guavas, and mangos, making them frugivores. Due to their all-fruit food regimen, they’re thought of a pest by many African farmers, who remove them when vital to avoid wasting their crops.

However farmers aren’t the one individuals who search out these distinctive creatures.

How Hammer-Headed Bats Are Hunted As Bushmeat

In addition to dealing with extermination by the hands of fed-up farmers, hammer-headed bats in sure nations should additionally stay looking out for hunters who wish to eat them. In line with Animalia, individuals within the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria kill hammer-headed bats to be able to devour them as bushmeat.

“Bushmeat” is a catch-all time period used to explain wild recreation usually, however it’s typically used particularly to indicate recreation meat from Africa. In addition to its use as a meals supply in these Equatorial African nations, hammer-headed bats additionally sometimes flip up in “wet markets” in different elements of Africa and all through the world.

Sadly, from an epidemiological perspective, moist markets generally do extra hurt than good.

Man Holding A Hammer Headed Fruit Bat

Per Se/FlickrMale hammer-headed bats can have a wingspan of higher than three toes.

Earlier research carried out by the Nationwide Institutes of Well being (NIH) have revealed that leks — or mating teams — of hammer-headed bats are thought of “reservoirs” of the Ebola virus. The NIH reported: “Molecular testing implicated this species and other African bats as potential reservoir hosts for Ebola virus, and it was one of only two fruit bat species epidemiologically linked to the 2008 Luebo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ebola outbreak.”

Nevertheless, it’s price noting that different research haven’t conclusively decided that the bats are “ground zero” for the Ebola virus. To at the present time, further research are being carried out by scientists to find out the true nature of Ebola transmission, in keeping with Science, however as of 2022, there are not any definitive research that hyperlink the bat to Ebola transmission.

Whereas hammer-headed bats face the best danger from farmers and hunters, some are additionally killed for one more purpose — to place a damper on their extraordinarily loud mating calls.

The Distinctive Mating Rituals Of The Hammer-Headed Bat

In line with a research printed within the Journal of Zoology, the hammer-headed bat is among the solely confirmed species of bat that takes half within the “lek” mating system. In this mating ritual, giant teams — or leks — of bats, from 20 to nicely over 120, collect to draw females.

Drawing Of Hammer Headed Bats

DeAgostini/Getty PicturesThe hammer-headed bat is also referred to as the big-lipped bat.

Every male claims a territory of about 30 toes, then hangs from a department and flaps his wings whereas repeatedly honking as many as 60 to 120 instances per minute. Feminine bats fly by way of the lek, choose a male they want to mate with, and land on the department beside him. The male then lets out a “staccato buzz” sound, mates with the feminine, and hangs on the department once more, honking for the following feminine.

The polygynous males don’t stick round to assist elevate their younger. In reality, they don’t often collect in giant household teams in any respect. The roost of a hammer-headed bat usually consists of fewer than 5 creatures.

Fortunately, these extraordinary bats should not thought of to be a threatened species, although rising deforestation and local weather change are starting to impression their pure habitats. For now, conservationists merely proceed to watch one in every of Africa’s most iconic bat species.


Now that you just’ve learn all concerning the hammer-headed bat, study seven extra of the world’s ugliest animals. Then, uncover extra concerning the big golden-crowned flying fox, the most important bat on the planet.

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