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Emballonura semicaudata, Ovalau Island - Joanne Malotaux (22057146275).jpg
Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata)
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
Superfamily: Emballonuroidea
Family: Emballonuridae
Gervais in de Castelnau, 1855

See Text

Emballonuridae is a family of microbats, many of which are referred to as sac-winged or sheath-tailed bats. They are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions across the world.[1]


The emballonurids include some of the smallest of all bats, and range from 3.5 to 10 cm in body length. They are generally brown or grey, although the species of genus Diclidurus are white. The faces are said to be handsome, the heads being comparable to those of domestic dogs, and their wings are long and narrow. As with other microchiropteran families, they use ultrasonic echolocation to sense the surrounding environment and their prey; the signals of some species are unusual in being audible to humans.[2]

The wing surface extends between the legs, a membrane known as a uropatagium, and the structure of these is a characteristic in many of the genera. They have tails which are partially enclosed, a short part of which projects through the uropatagium to form a sheath. The usual arrangement of the uropatagium is as to be fixed to the tail, but the sheathtail feature is joined by an elastic component which allows greater flexibility; they are able to use the hind legs for locomotion and to adjust the membrane's surface while in flight.[3] As a common name indicates, many species also possess sac-shaped glands in their wings, which are open to the air and may release pheromones to attract mates. Other species have throat glands which produce strong-smelling secretions.[4] They have the dental formula


These bats generally prefer to roost in better-illuminated areas than other species of bats. Their dwellings can often be found in hollow trees and entryways to caves or other structures. Some species, such as the genus Taphozous, live in large colonies, but others are solitary. Species living away from the tropics may enter periods of torpor or extended hibernation during colder months.[4]

Emballonurids feed mainly on insects and occasionally on fruit. Most of these bats catch their meals while flying.

The common name for some groups, 'sheath-tailed bats', is sometimes noted as sheathtails.[2]


Family Emballonuridae


  1. ^ Simmons, Nancy B. (2005). "Chiroptera". In Wilson, Don E.; Reeder, DeeAnn M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 312–529. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. Retrieved 28 September 2009.
  2. ^ a b Andrew, D. (2015). Complete Guide to Finding the Mammals of Australia. CSIRO Publishing. p. 323. ISBN 9780643098145.
  3. ^ Strahan, R. (1983). "Sheathtail-bats Family Emballonuridae". In Strahan, R. (ed.). Complete book of Australian mammals. The national photographic index of Australian wildlife (1 ed.). London: Angus & Robertson. pp. 291–293. ISBN 0207144540.
  4. ^ a b Macdonald, D., ed. (1984). The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. p. 804. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.