Guadalcanal Monkey-Faced Bat Click to enlarge image
The Guadalcanal monkey-faced bat (Pteralopex atrata) is a rare mammal endemic to Solomon Islands. This juvenile was the first capture of this species since 1975. Image: Jonathan Richmond
© Jonathan Richmond

Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification

Monkey-faced Bats (genus Pteralopex) are a distinctive and poorly studied group of flying-foxes known only from the Solomon Islands and Fiji.

All monkey-faced bats have very restricted and declining distributions and most are listed as 'Critically Endangered' by the IUCN (The World Conservation Union). Prior to an Australian Museum survey of the south-west Pacific during the late 1980s and early 1990s, only three species of monkey-faced bats were known in scientific literature. In 1991, Dr Tim Flannery, then research scientist in the Mammal section of the Australian Museum, described a fourth species, Pteralopex pulchra, based on a single but very distinctive bat caught in 1990 on Guadalanal, Solomon Islands. The same year, another new species of monkey-faced bat was collected on New Georgia Island by Australian Museum Research Associate, Harry Parnaby.

Harry Parnaby formally described the New Georgia Monkey-faced bat, Pteralopex taki, based on a series of specimens lodged in the Australian Museum collection. He found the species was morphologically similar to Pteralopex pulchra from Guadalanal, although the New Georgia species has shorter, dull brown rather than black fur and has a number of features which distinguish it from other members of the genus. The close relationship between these two species is also supported by biochemical studies carried out using tissue samples collected from each species.

Ecological studies during the 1990s revealed that the survival of the New Georgia Monkey-faced bat depends on lowland primary forest with large, old trees. According to local people this species once occurred on Kolombangara Island but became extinct there as a result of intensive logging between 1966 and 1980. It seems likely that it will become extinct on New Georgia Island in the near future unless suitable primary lowland forest is protected from logging and clearing for agriculture. Accordingly, Dr Parnaby has proposed an IUCN listing of 'Critically Endangered' for the species.