Altered flower/fruit clusters of the kitul palm used as roosts by the short-nosed fruit bat, Cynopterus sphinx (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae)



The short-nosed fruit bat (Cynopterus sphinx) creates bell-shaped cavities in flower/fruit clusters of the kitul palm (Caryota urens) by chewing and severing flower and fruit strings. These cavities (stem tents) in which the bats roost are usually about one metre deep and 30 cm in diameter. We observed groups of bats roosting in fully-formed stem tents during the daytime, and the construction and subsequent occupancy of newly formed tent cavities. Stem tents are similar in principle to leaf tents except, instead of being formed when bats chew veins and the surrounding tissues of leaves, stem tents are formed in C. urens when bats completely cut several of the central flower/fruit strings. Flower/fruit strings are mostly severed when they are in an immature stage, at times when they are thin and widely spaced. Once these strings thicken and become heavily-laden with mature fruits, bats cannot penetrate the cluster to sever them. Our observations suggest that a single male enters an immature flower or fruit cluster either from below or the sides and severs the central strings along the peduncle. In early phases of stem-tent construction, C. sphinx severs flower/fruit strings at a rate of about one or two per day, and cluster alteration may continue upwards to two months. Only one immature flower/fruit cluster on a C. urens tree is available for alteration by bats at any given time. That this bat does not roost in the fruit/flower cluster during the day, when a tent is under construction, and the accumulation of chewed flower and fruit strings beneath such a cluster in the morning, suggests that tent construction by C. sphinx is a night-time activity.