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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless otherwise credited.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2023



Bamboo Bats

Fig 1

Fig 2

 Fig 3

Fig 4

Fig 5

Fig 6

Fig 7






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 mainly roost inside the stems (or 'culms') of various bamboo species, however they may also roost in rock crevices and narrow treeholes.

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

Their fur colour is variable both within and between species, comprising various shades of brown, greyish-brown or orange-brown.

Bamboo Bats have a remarkably flattened skull, which allows them to squeeze through narrow slits of around 4-8 mm to gain access to their roosting chamber (Medway & Marshall, 1970). The thumbs and soles of the feet have fleshy pads which give a firm grip inside smooth bamboo.

Entrances to roosting chambers inside bamboo can be formed in a few ways; they naturally occur in dead stems, and may also be formed when a stem has been bent over and damaged. The action of various burrowing and boring insects can also create narrow slits.

In a famous study in Peninsular Malaysia, undertaken in the 1960's, the action of a Lasiochila beetle in the large bamboo Gigantochloa scortechinii was found to have created innumerable narrow, vertical slits of suitable dimensions for local bamboo bats (Medway & Marshall, 1970).

Roosting sites are largely inaccessible to predators, although an instance of predation by a Paradise Tree Snake was documented in Singapore (Leong & Chan, 2011).

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

Prior to 2017 just 3 species of bamboo bat were recognised, but after a detailed genetic study (Tu et al, 2017) 6 species are now widely recognised.

The Southeast Asia mainland is dominated by two widespread species the Malayan Bamboo (Tylonycteris malayana, formerly part of T. robustula) and Blyth's Bamboo Bat (Tylonycteris fulvida, formerly part of T. pachypus).

T. pachypus (Lesser Bamboo Bat) and T. robustula (Greater Bamboo Bat) occur on Borneo, Sumatra and other islands.

The Tonkin Bamboo Bat (T. tonkinensis) and the smallest species of all, the Pygmy Bamboo Bat (T. pygmaeus), occur in northern Vietnam and southern China.

Figs 1 to 3 : Bamboo Bats returns to their roost in a clump of bamboo at the edge of secondary forest

Figs 4 and 5 : Bamboo bats roosting inside the stem of the bamboo Schizostachyum brachycladum. In these examples the fur is medium brown.

Fig 6 : This bamboo stem was twisted and broken by a fallen tree, thereby creating a roosting chamber for a bamboo bat (arrowed).

Fig 7 : A fast-flying bamboo bat skirts a tangled clump of bamboo at dusk.

All photos from Singapore; we suspect all to be of Tylonycteris malayana, based on the posterior base of the ears, which is thickened, and on sonograms recorded around each roost.

References : M1, M2, M3, M6

Leong Tzi Ming & Chan Kwok Wai. (2011). Bats in Singapore ecological roles and conservation needs. In Proceedings of Nature Society, Singapore痴 Conference on 鮮ature Conservation for a Sustainable Singapore. Vertebrate Study Group, Nature Society Singapore.

Medway, L. & Marshall, A. G. (1970). Roost-site selection among flat-headed bats (Tylonycteris spp.). Journal of Zoology, 161(2), 237-245.

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.