Pollinators
U S Fish and Wildlife Service

 

Past Featured Pollinators:
  Crested Honeycreepers
  Karner blue butterfly
  Lesser long-nosed bat
 

Mexican long-nosed bat

  Rufous Hummingbird
  White-winged_Dove
More Pollinators:
  Fringed Orchids and Hawkmoths
  Hummingbirds in Alaska

Fun Fact:

This bat can obtain flight speeds of up to 14 miles per hour.

 

 

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Featured Pollinator

image of a Mexican long-nosed bat
  Mexican long-nosed bat. Credit: © Carson Brown

The Mexican long-nosed bat, first discovered in 1937, is primarily found in Mexico, but also lives in the southern part of the United States (Texas and New Mexico), and is relatively larger in comparison to other bat species. If you happen to be in an area where they live, the Mexican Long-nosed bat can be identified by its dark gray to dusky brown color. Additional features include a long muzzle with a prominent nose leaf (small fold of skin) at the tip; a long three inch tongue; and a small tail that may appear to be missing.

These bats are found in desert scrub vegetation covered with century plants (agaves), mesquite, creosote bush, and a variety of cacti, which serves as their primary food source. While the population status of the Mexican long-nosed bat is uncertain, there are strong indications that they are declining. The largest reported population of Mexican long-nosed bats in the United States is in Texas in and around Big Bend National Park.

image of an agave (century) plant
Mexican long-nosed bats are important pollinators of agave (century) plants. Credit: Dr. Thomas G. Barnes/University of Kentucky
 

The feeding ecology of the Mexican long-nosed bat is of great importance in understanding its life history and recent decline. The bats are considered an important pollinator for century plants, because they have developed a mutualistic relationship with one another. The bats migration from northern Mexico to Texas coincides with the blooming of the plants from June through August.

As the Mexican long-nosed bats move along their migratory path, they are attracted to large quantities of nectar that are present in century plants. In flight, the bats hover over the plants, while using their long tongues to drink the nectar. Their tongues become coated with pollen grains, that stick to their fur; thus transferring the pollen as they move from one plant to another to feed. The century plant needs this cross-fertilization to produce fruit and viable seeds for more century plants.

In 1988, the Mexican long-nosed bat was listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Some of the factors that contributed to the listing include: harvesting of agaves for the production of liquor; limited growth and lifespan of the agave plants; frequent wildfires; and the clearing of rangeland areas in northern Mexico. The clearing of rangeland reduces the food supply, which affects the bat population.

Sources:

Adams, Rick A. 2003. BATS of the Rocky Mountain West, Natural History, Ecology and Conservation. Boulder, Colorado: University Press of Colorado.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. No date. Mexican Long-nosed Bat (Leptonycteris nivalis). 4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. 2011. Sonorensis: Celebrating Bats. Vol. 31, No. 1, Winter 2011.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 1994. Mexican Long-Nosed Bat / Leptonycteris nivalis Recovery Plan. Prepared for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Region 2, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 98 pp.


Last Updated: October 24, 2012
October 24, 2012