This species is distinguished by the lack of an external tail, as well as possessing a narrow interfemoral membrane. The dorsal coat is usually a dull brownish to grayish with a silvery tinge, and the ventral surface is usually somewhat paler. There are usually four distinct facial stripes present in this genus. In this species, a light dorsal line is absent. The Jamaican Fruit Bat has a short and very soft coat that is velvety in texture, with a pleasant odor similar to that of perfumed soap. This genus differs from those most closely related to it by its more pointed ears and by differences in skull and dental features.
Histochemical analysis of the muscle tissue of this species has revealed that Artibeus jamaicensis has two different types of fast-twitch flight muscle tissue. It is thought that the two different types of muscle tissues act as a type of ‘two-gear’ system. It is thought that this system in some way gives this species more versatility to the otherwise somewhat limited maneuverability that it displays in their flight pattern.
This species is neotropical. It is native from central Mexico to Bolivia, central Brazil, and the Greater and Lesser Antilles. Artibeus jamaicensis is found in three types of tropical forests. These are namely rain forests, deciduous forests, and scrub forests. This species is known to primarily inhabit caves and darkened areas of abandoned buildings. However, there are some reports of this species inhabiting more open areas.
Artibeus jamaicensis is among fifteen species of neotropical bat species, as well as three species of paleotropical bats; that exhibit tent-making behavior. These bats are known to bite through the midrib or veins of the leaves of plants in the families Araceae and Palmae in such a way as to create a roosting area for themselves. This biting of leaves causes them to collapse in such a way as to form a semi-enclosed 'tent.'
Although the full extent of the natural diet of this species is unknown, it is known that Jamaican Fruit Bat feeds upon a huge variety of fruits from tropical shrubs and trees, as well as pollen, nectar, small insects, and flower parts. Favorite fruits known to be eaten by this species include: avocados, figs, bananas, espave nuts, mangoes, and even the pulp around the seeds of Acromia palms. Although it is generally assumed that this species feeds on fruit pulp, it is actually a fruit juice feeder. Artibeus jamaicensis is very adept at squeezing ripe fruit in its mouth into a small pellet, swallowing the juice and then spitting out this fruit pulp pellet. As a consequence, this species prefers feeding on soft, ripe, and juicy fruits. They make very frequent flights throughout the night in search of food. The area required for this species to find sufficient food varies according to availability. For example, females studied in Jalisco, an area of Mexico, were found to fly up to 8 kilometers to forage for enough fruit. Whereas in Panama, on Barro Colorado Island, the distance required to find suitable forage was only about one thirteenth the distance.
This species does not fly in the familiar flocks, like those of old world fruit bats; in order to forage. With Artibeus jamaicensis, each individual bat arrives separately at the feeding site, they feed, and then each departs separately. This species regularly carries food to a temporary feeding site and to the roosting site, especially towards morning. The ground beneath wherever this species roosts is virtually littered with fruit pulp pellets and seeds. Artibeus jamaicensis has a very rapid metabolic rate, food passes through the digestive tract in as little as 15 to 20 minutes. With such fast digestion, it is commonly thought that there is no microbial fermentation taking place in the digestive process.
This species shows quite a bit of variation in it’s reproductive behavior throughout its range. The females in Panama are polyestrous seasonally, with births peaking in March and April. There is a postpartum estrous, and even a second birth peak in the months of July and August. There is then a postpartum estrous that results in the formation of the blastocyst. Normal development of this blastocyst is resumed in the months of September or November, with the young bats being born in March or April. The Gestation length of this species lasts about 4 months following the resumption of development of this delayed blastocyst. However, in some parts of this species range, such as in Colombia as well as the Yucatan Peninsula, pregnant females and/or nursing mothers have been encountered by researchers throughout the year. This suggests that this species possesses a continuous cycle, or even completely acyclic breeding behavior.
Usually in this genus, a single offspring is the norm. However, with Artibeus jamaicensis, twin births have been recorded on occasion. It is commonly thought that this species possesses a harem-like social structure. Within these harems, groups of adult females roost with only a single adult male. The interiors of tree hollow roosts have also been found to contain only a single adult male with three to fourteen females and their young. Sub-adult, non-harem males commonly roost in foliage or cave roosts together in groups of one to three individuals.
Dominant males defend their harems during the birthing season, in order to ensure they will be able to mate with their females during the postpartum estrous cycles. Sub-adult females have been found to join existing harems. On an interesting note, groups of this species have been known to respond to distress calls of a captured individual by actually mobbing the captor! It is thought that such mobbing behavior could be effective against small mammalian predators like opossums, which are known to prey upon this species.
Due to its high metabolic rate, in captivity this species consumes vast amounts of fruit. This has created quite a problem for us because fruit is very expensive and has to be of a high quality and very fresh. The reason for this is that although these bats are known as fruit feeders they are actually juice feeders. They strain out the juice and spit out the pulp and seeds. Of all the species at the Centre, the fruit bats are most in need of support because there isn't any way to economize on quality of food for them.
Although Artibeus jamaicensis occasionally feeds upon cultivated fruit crops. The fact that this species has a gut throughput time of approximately 15 to 20 minutes with no microbial fermentation involved in the digestion process, means that this species must forage for food very frequently indeed! As an indirect consequence, this species is extremely important to the pollination and dispersal of tropical fruit bearing plant species. In fact 70 % of the world's fruit is pollinated solely by bats.
This species is one of the few pollinators and seed dispersers found on the Island of Jamaica. This tiny island has very little left in the way of pristine rain forest. With vast areas of the rain forest in Jamaica already clear cut, the natural habitat of so many different species of animals unique to Jamaica is being destroyed so rapidly that it is impossible to list all of the species that have been adversely affected. It has been predicted that we will lose as much as two thirds of the worlds tropical species in the next decade or two. Bearing this in mind, the Centre decided to propagate the Jamaican Fruit Bat in captivity.
Rain forests, like those found in Jamaica; are totally unable to regenerate without these fruit bats due to the very important fact that the seeds of all new growth species of plants and trees are dispersed largely by these bats. Also, this species is one of the only species responsible for the pollination of the majority of the night flowering flora of their delicate Jamaican rain forest habitat. A task that would not be possible without them! Obviously, this species of Fruit Bat is an essential species for the reforestation of the island of Jamaica!
Research has shown that bacteria produced by bats shows promise as a possible source for new antibiotics and bacteria for use in toxic waste cleanups.
If you have found an injured bird of prey (hawk, falcon, owl, etc.), contact the Centre and our experienced staff can assist in determining what steps should be taken to ensure the bird receives the best possible care.
Havelock, Ontario K0L 1Z0
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