Fringe-lipped Bats prey on frogs, lizards, bats, and even hummingbirds.


In a Central American rainforest, the air is thick with humidity, and chirps of insects and calls from frogs fill the air. A Fringe-lipped Bat (Trachops Cirrhosus) flies overhead, eavesdropping on frogs’ calls to determine where they are. The species has adapted to hear low frequency calls, and tonight it uses this incredible ability to hone in on its evening meal: a frog from the genus Pristimantis. Swooping down, the bat snatches up the amphibian to eat.

Up-close portrait of a Fring-lipped Bat
Fringe-lipped Bat (Trachops cirrhosus) by Jose Gabriel Martinez Fonseca

The Fringe-lipped Bat is adapted to hunt these tropical amphibians, as well as lizards, large insects, other bats, and even small birds. A 2020 study by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute examined the bats’ feces to learn more about their prey, and they found evidence at least one bat had eaten a hummingbird.

While they are versatile carnivores, scientists believe they have special adaptations to help neutralize the toxins in amphibian skin. They believe the salivary glands are involved with this process, and the small bumps on the bats’ muzzle and lips may also have a role in safeguarding the bats from these toxins.

Fringe-lipped Bats are remarkable hunters, and the 2020 study also found they may be able to detect even silent prey—which is incredibly challenging in a tropical forest packed with vegetation—highlighting the importance of echolocation.

A Fringe-lipped bat flies with mouth open
Photo by Bruce D. Taubert

These flying carnivores live from Mexico down through Central American and into Brazil. They can be found in low-lying areas up to about 4,500 feet above sea level. While they typically gather in small colonies of less than ten individuals, they are also open to roosting alongside other bat species in anywhere from tree hollows and caves to buildings and road culverts.

While scientists are working to learn more about the social habits of this species, they have noticed an orange crust that male bats can develop on their forearms. This crust has a distinctive scent, which may be used to communicate with female bats. Scientists hope to learn more about the bats’ social structures, behavior, and more.