Every year, many of these bats travel between Mexico and the United States along a “nectar corridor” of blooming agave and cactus plants, and scientists are striving to learn as much as they can about these elusive endangered bats.
The Mexican long-nosed bat isn’t just a winged wonder—it is an international bat of mystery. Every year, many of these bats travel between Mexico and the United States along a “nectar corridor” of blooming agave and cactus plants, and scientists are striving to learn as much as they can about these elusive endangered bats.
Two from the Bat Conservation International (BCI) team—one a past BCI student scholarship recipient —are some of the scientists working hard to learn more about these amazing bats.
– Dr. Ana Ibarra has conducted extensive research at Cueva del Diablo, a cave in central Mexico that is the species’ only known mating site. She works with colleagues to learn more about the bats’ mating habits, population size, migration patterns, and other characteristics. Dr. Ibarra, colleagues in Mexico, and BCI are working to develop a community-based conservation management plan for the long-term protection of this critical roost site.
– Dr. Kristen Lear’s doctoral work focused on finding ways to protect both Mexican long-nosed bats and the livelihoods of people who live in rural communities. Mexican long-nosed bats feed off agave flowers, which are integral to the culture and economy in Nuevo Leon and Coahuila, Mexico, where she conducted her research. Her work focuses on bat conservation and local livelihoods, and she helps guide BCI’s Agave Restoration Initiative.
Dr. Ibarra and Dr. Lear are working hard to learn even more about these incredible bats. Here are a few things we know about these amazing creatures:
1) The Mexican long-nosed bat is native to Mexico and the United States, where they can be found in Texas and New Mexico. The species is endangered in both countries.
2) Scientists only know of one cave where the bats mate and spend the winter. Some of the females head north in the spring, giving birth to their pups in northern Mexico. Some travel further north, and some end up in Big Bend National Park in Texas and Romney Cave in New Mexico during the summer before heading south again.
3) Scientists believe the bats follow the agave and cacti blooms along the “nectar corridor,” but these migratory bats are challenging to study. By day, they roost in caves, crevices, old buildings, and abandoned mines, before emerging at night to eat nectar and pollen from agaves and cacti.
4) This bat’s tongue can extend 3 inches—far enough to reach deep into tasty flowers. Its muzzle is elongated which makes it easier to feed. Mexican long-nosed bats can hover (like a hummingbird) in order to feed. They are important agave pollinators, and their role in pollination helps wild agave populations thrive. Without agave, we wouldn’t have tequila or mezcal.