The fisherman bat (Noctilio leporinus), also known as the bulldog bat, is aptly named. It is highly adapted for catching and eating fish. Its huge feet, long legs, and especially sharp claws are used to gaff fish directly from the water. Once caught, fish are quickly scooped up to the bat's large mouth. Its bulldog-like jowls, which form internal pouches, and its long canines secure slippery fish for consumption in flight or at a perch if one is available nearby.
Fisherman bats fly low over the surface of pools, slow-flowing rivers, or coastal lagoons hunting for their meals, and some have even been seen over open waters. Using highly sophisticated echolocation abilities, they can detect even the slightest ripple in the water, indicating a fish just below the surface. In laboratory experiments, these bats also detected objects as minute as the diameter of a human hair, extending only two millimeters out of the water.
They are found in Latin America from Mexico to Argentina. This bat was one of many filmed for the documentary on bats of the world upcoming this fall on CBS (see article, page 3).
Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle