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Oct. 22, 2010

Rare Sighting of Mexican Long-tongued Bat

AUSTIN–Something batty is going on in Dripping Springs, and just in time for Halloween.

When Jim Yastic stepped out on his porch October 17, he noticed a bat roosting on the house.  Yantis, a nature lover, said he quickly noticed something different about this bat.

“His head reminded me of a dog’s head,” Yantis said. “I knew it was a special bat so I took pictures of it. When it got dark that Sunday, I caught it flying off behind me.”

Yantis’ speculation about the creature’s unique nature was correct. It turned out to be a male Mexican long-tongued bat, a species that has only been documented four times in Texas.

“I’m sure this is a new species record for Hays County,” said Diana Foss, an Urban Wildlife Biologist with Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Foss, also a member of the Houston Bat Team, said it is unusual to spot this type of bat in Texas.

“The long nose marks it as a nectivore and not an insect eater like most of the other 31 bat species found in Texas,” Foss said.

She said this particular species is thought to follow agave blooms north.

“This one may have found some convenient agave blooms near Mr. Yantis’ home,” Foss said.

The only record of the Mexican long-tongued bat in the state prior to 2000 was in Hidalgo County. These bats have been found in Cameron County and Midland since that time, and were spotted in El Paso three years ago.

Bats are noted for their insect-eating habits. These tendencies are significant because they keep the moths that impact grain supplies under control.  A good number of bat species are nectivores in the tropics, and important plant pollinators.

Bob Locke of Bat Conservation International said the Mexican long-tongued bat is not only a significant pollinator of agave, but of some cacti from Arizona and New Mexico south into Venezuela.

They tend to be small colony roosting species, usually found in small groups along crevices, Locke said.

“Their name comes from their tongue, which can be 1/3 the length of their body,” Locke said.

The bat was found dead late the morning of October 18.  The specimen will be kept at the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin.

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