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Honduran white bat

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Title: Honduran white bat  
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Subject: Leaf-nosed bat, Phyllostomidae, Lonchophylla inexpectata, Commissaris's long-tongued bat, Slender broad-nosed bat
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Honduran white bat

Honduran white bat
Honduran white bat
Ectophylla alba
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Family: Phyllostomatidae
Genus: Ectophylla
Species: E. alba
Binomial name
Ectophylla alba
(Allen, 1892)

The Honduran white bat (Ectophylla alba) has snow white fur and a yellow nose and ears. It is tiny, only 3.7-4.7 cm long. The only member of the genus Ectophylla, it is found in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and western Panama at elevations from sea level to 700 m.[1] It feeds at least in part on fruit.[1]


The Honduran white bat cuts the side veins extending out from the midrib of the large leave of the Heliconia plant causing them to fold down to form a 'tent'. They cling to the roof of this tent in small colonies of up to half a dozen individuals, consisting of one male and a harem of females. The tent protects them from rain and predators. Most tent-making bats take flight at even slight disturbances, but researchers in Costa Rica have reported that Honduran white bats take flight only when the main stem of their tent is disturbed, possibly because they are well camouflaged. Although their tents are typically low to the ground (about six feet), sunlight filters through the leaf which gives their white fur a greenish cast. This almost completely conceals them if they remain still. It has been suggested a colony may have a number of tents scattered within the forest. It is one of 15 species of Latin American bats that roost in tents. In the Old World, 3 species of bat from India and Southeast Asia are known to roost in tents.


The Honduran White Bat (Ectophylla alba) is a bat that has – like its name suggests – snow white to grayish fur, along with an amber or yellow nose and ears. They are a near-threatened species of bat and are up for re-evaluation in the near future under the new standards of the IUCN. This bat, along with the Northern ghost bat is one of two currently known species of bat that is white. Most others are a variant of brown, tan, or might have white markings in the case of the recently discovered Stripe-Faced Fruit Bat. The bats are rather small in size, measuring at just 1-2 inches (3–5 cm) in length and the weight is less than an ounce at .2 (6 grams). It lives in Central America in dense thickets of the rainforests or abandoned banana fields (called groves). They are also known to roost inside abandoned buildings and hollow trees on occasion. They feed mostly on fruit, and they give birth in the spring to just one offspring.

The Honduran White Bat is unique among most bats (but not many tropical bats) in that it will modify its immediate surroundings for its own benefit. Unlike the misconception that all bats live in caves, this bat will use the leaf of the large heliconia plant to form a tent.

It does so by cutting the side veins of the plant that extend out from the midrib; this causes the leaf to droop along the stem, making a tent. The little white bats then cling to the inner plant upside-down in small colonies of around six, although larger groupings have been reported. Unlike most bats that do make tents – the Honduran White Bat will not flee if disturbed lightly by looking under the leaf – they will only flee when the stem itself is disturbed causing a brief flurry of activity. The advantage of having their white fur is postulated to be the reason – as when sunlight filters through the leaf they look green, and so by not moving they will go un-noticed by possible predators from below.

A Honduran white bat being held

The Binomial Name of the Honduran White Bat is Ectophylla alba. Its genus is Ectophylla of which it may be the only member. Ectophylla belongs to the Subfamily Stenodermatinae of which many other bats are a part, such as the Red Fruit Bat, the Neotropical Fruit Bat, and many more (please note that these fruit bats are not in the same family as the Flying Foxes which are the large fruit bats that belong to the Suborder Megachiroptera). Stenodermatinae belongs to the family Phyllostomidae, which are also known as the leaf-nosed bats; well known members include all sorts of insectivores, frugivores, full-fledged vertebra eating predators, and the three species of bat which feed solely on the blood of other animals. Phyllostomidae belongs to the Superfamily Noctilionoidea, which contains the Fisherman Bats, Ghost-Faced bats, and short-tailed bats. Noctilionoidea belongs to the Suborder Microchiroptera, otherwise known as the microbats. Microchiroptera use echolocation to find their way about in the dark, they lack under-fur, and they feed primarily on insects – with the exceptions of the various families that feed on fruit, other animals, or blood. Microchiroptera belongs to the Order Chiroptera of which the Megabats are members (megabats lack echolocation with the exception of one single species, and feed primarily on fruit, they are also the largest bats alive). Chiroptera belongs to the Superorder Laurasiatheria of which we Homo sapiens sapiens are members, along with all the ungulates, carnivores, anteaters, and whales (and more). Laurasiatheria belongs to the Infraclass Eutheria, of which all placental mammals are members. Eutheria belongs to the Subclass Theria, of which the marsupials are members – but the monotremes are not, and this all belongs to the Class Mammalia.

Similar 2.5-4.5 cm white bat species is found in Costa Rica, especially along Pacific Coast Region between March and May. While white it is not a true albino due that the definition of albinism is light hair, skin and eyes due to the lack of tyrosinase.[2] Its current range is unknown. The body coloring is completely white while the plagioplatagium and dactylopatagium (wing membranes) are transparent. The ears have a prominent tragus and the face has a gray-pink mask from beneath the tragus across both eyes, the simple nose and mouth.[3] The tail is hardly distinguishable. The extended wing measures approximately 6–10 cm (2.36-3.93 in). The humerus measures nearly 1 cm, the radius measures 2.5-4.5 cm (.59-1.7 in) and second finger 2.5-4.5 cm (.59-1.7 in) for a complete wingspan from tip to tip of approximately 14–24 cm (5.51-9.45 in). It lacks the small claw at the end of the second digit which is common in Microchiroptera.[4] The hind feet have five toes which aid them when they roost. Even though partial albinism is possible this appears to fall into its own category of species by appearance and behavior. It differs from the Honduran White Bat (Ectophylla alba) in appearance of the ears, nose and wings. The ears and nose are not the green-gold color of the (Ectophylla alba) and it has a simple nose not a leaf-nose. The Masked White Bat does not appear to be the typical communal bat as it is found most often only in pairs roosting on the underside of palm fronds especially during the rainy season in Costa Rica. Nor does it participate in communal nursery. It differs from tent-making bats in that it does not bite through leaf ribs having the leaf die and fold in around them. However, it tends to return to the same roosting site for several weeks even with young. The skull features appear to be similar to that of a round eared bat which is an insectivore.

Interesting Fact

The Honduran White Bat is known for its white fur, nearly unique among bats as it is only one of two species to have this coloration.

Picture of the Honduran white bat by Leyo, licensed under GFDL Keywords: white, yellow, camouflage

The White bat is listed as Near Threatened (LR/nt), is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Namings for the white bat A young / baby of a white bat is called a 'pup'. A white bat group is called a 'colony or cloud'.


  1. ^ a b c Rodriguez, B. & Pineda, W. (2008). "Ectophylla alba".  
  2. ^ Webster (1989). Webster Unabridged Dictionary. Albino: Barnes and Nobles. 
  3. ^ Luedtke, Karen (2012). Jungle Living: A look at social behavior of man and monkey. Barnes and Nobles Epub. p. 300.  
  4. ^ Macdonald, D (1984;1989). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. Bats: Andromeda Oxford Limited. pp. 786–805. 
  • Timm, R. M.; Mortimer, J. (March 1976). "Selection of Roost Sites by Honduran White Bats, Ectophylla Alba (Chiroptera: Phyllostomatidae)". Ecology ( 
  • Allen, H. (1892). "Ectophylla". Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus. 15: 441. 
  • Allen, H. (1892). "Ectophylla alba". Proc. U. S. Nat. Mus. 15: 442. 
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