Endangered Species Day was on May 21, and what better way to celebrate than to share some fascinating facts about one of our (many) favorite bats: the Critically Endangered Jamaican Flower Bat (Phyllonycteris aphylla).

05.28.21

Critically Endangered Jamaican Flower Bat roosts in just one hot Jamaican Cave

Endangered Species Day was on May 21, and what better way to celebrate than to share some fascinating facts about one of our (many) favorite bats: the Critically Endangered Jamaican Flower Bat (Phyllonycteris aphylla).

Weighing in at 14-18 grams, these lovely little bats mostly consume nectar, fruit, and pollen, but they’re also known to occasionally snack on an insect or two. They are considered a “leaf-nosed bat,” but it’s hard to tell when you look at them. Their nose leaves are tiny and hard to see.

Jamaican Flower Bats used to be more widespread in Jamaica, but their numbers diminished and they were considered extinct in 2005, more than 20 years after the last known sighting.

But Jamaica’s National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) rediscovered the species in one Jamaican cave in 2010.

This is the only place they are known to live. And this cave is hot. With temperatures rising above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity around 100 percent, a human would find these conditions sweltering. But the Jamaican Flower Bat finds them just right. The heat comes from their own body heat combined with the warmth generated when their guano—which lies all over the cave floor—decomposes.

As a cave dwelling species, they need their cave home to survive. They can’t just make do and roost in the eaves of a building or a tree cavity. They need their cave, which has just the right conditions.

Their home isn’t safe, though. Human development is encroaching perilously close, and a road goes right over part of the cave. A disturbance in this cave could wipe out the entire species. Invasive, non-native predators are another significant threat.

Bat Conservation International is working closely with Jamaican partners, including NEPA, The Jamaican Caves Organisation, The University of the West Indies, and Windsor Research Centre, to protect Jamaican Flower Bats.

We are working together to assess and monitor the population, identify and reduce threats, and work toward long-term habitat protection, including potential land acquisition. We work with the aim that one day the Critically Endangered Jamaican Flower Bat will no longer need so much extra protection to survive.