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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
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Bamboo Bats

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5


Family : Vespertilionidae
Species :
Tylonycteris spp.

Forearm Length : up to 3.2 cm
Weight : up to 10 grams

Bamboo Bats (or 'Club-footed Bats') are so-called because they roost by day inside the stems (or 'culms') of various bamboo species (as well as crevices in rocks and trees). They are known to occur up to 1500 metres elevation.

Roosting sites in bamboo are typically created by the activities of beetles which, after emergence from their pupae, cut a narrow vertical slit in order to escape from the bamboo stem. Larger roosting sites may naturally occur in dead or dying bamboo stems.

In China, bamboo bats are known to feed mainly on insects from the orders Hymenoptera and Diptera.

Bamboo Bats have a markedly flattened skull, which allows them to squeeze through a narrow space and gain access to their roost. Remarkably they are able to squeeze through slits as narrow as 4-8 mm. Roosting sites are thus largely inaccessible to predators, though an instance of predation by a Paradise Tree Snake Chrysopelea paradisi was documented in Singapore by Chan Kwok Wai.

The thumbs and soles of the feet have fleshy pads which give a firm foothold inside bamboo.

Fur colour is variable between species and subspecies, comprising various shades of brown, greyish-brown or orange-brown.

Traditionally two species of bamboo bat have been recognised : the Greater Bamboo Bat Tylonycteris robustula and the Lesser Bamboo Bat T. pachypus. Occasionally both species may roost in the same bamboo clump, but rarely in the same cavity. 

Recent studies (Tu et al, 2017) seem to indicate that the evolutionary relationships between different species and subspecies of Tylonycteris are more complex than previously thought, and that additional species may exist.

Bamboo bats occur in parts of India and southern China, Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore and parts of western Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo, Sulawesi) and the Philippines.

Figs 1 and 2 : A bamboo bat roosting inside the stem of the bamboo Schizostachyum brachycladum. In this specimen from Singapore (species uncertain) the fur is medium brown.

Figs 3, 4 and 5 : A specimen (species uncertain) with greyish brown fur, which is more pale around the collar and upper chest. This specimen, again from Singapore, was active in a sparsely wooded area adjacent to secondary forest.

References : M1, M2, M3, M6

Tu, V. T., Csorba, G., Ruedi, M., Furey, N. M., Son, N. T., Thong, V. D., Bonillo, C. & Hassanin, A. (2017). Comparative phylogeography of bamboo bats of the genus Tylonycteris (Chiroptera, Vespertilionidae) in Southeast Asia. European Journal of Taxonomy,
274: 1-38.