Ghost-faced Bat (Mormoops megalophylla)

Protection Status Notes
Although widely distributed, M. megalophylla is not numerous anywhere in its range. It has neither federal nor state protection designation, but is listed as "Uncommon" in Arizona.
Description
The Ghost-faced Bat can readily be distinguished from all other species by its unique facial ornamentation consisting of conspicuous folds of skin reaching from ear to ear across the chin.
Life History
Colonies of this species may contain up to half a million individuals and are spatially isolated from colonies of other species of bats roosting in the same structures. Conspecific individuals maintain a distance of approximately 6 inches from each other. Roosting sites are often shared with cave myotis and Mexican free-tailed bats. One young is born in late May to early June. Ghost-faced Bats roost primarily in caves or abandoned mines, and occasionally in old buildings. Nursing mothers roost in warm, draft-free areas. Males and non-reproducing females use caves separate from those used by nursing females.

Ghost-faced Bats emerge soon after dark, flying in dense, fast-moving formations. Once out of the roost, they fly quickly to foraging sites along canyons and arroyos. These bats are strong, fast flyers. Foraging sometimes occurs over standing water. Individuals begin to return approximately seven hours after first leaving the roost. These bats feed primarily on large-bodied moths.

Although seasonal patterns are not well understood, in Texas, winter records form the Edwards Plateau and summer records form the Trans-Pecos suggest that some seasonal movements occur.
Habitat
This species is found in a variety of habitats including desert scrub, mixed boreal-tropical forests, tropical rain forests, and riparian areas with mature cottonwood, sycamore, and willow in oak-woodland habitat.

Ghost-faced bats roost primarily in caves or abandoned mines, and occasionally in old buildings. Nursing mothers roost in areas which minimize ventilation and maximize heat retention. These sites are usually the deepest and warmest (96.8° F (36°C) areas of occupied caves. Males and non-reproducing females use caves separate from those used by nursing females. In Falcon State, Venezuela, males form bachelor colonies in areas of caves having ambient temperatures of 87.0-93.5 ° F (30.6-34.2 °C). Non-reproductive females use interior chambers with a temperature of 92.1-93.5 ° F (33.4-34.2 °C), often roosting in nurseries of Leptonycteris curasoae.

M. megalophylla emerges soon after dark, flying in dense, fast-moving formations. Once out of the roost, individuals fly quickly to foraging sites along canyons and arroyos. These bats are strong, fast flyers that travel at relatively high altitudes en route to and from foraging sites. Foraging sometimes occurs over standing water. Individuals begin to return approximately seven hours after first leaving the roost. Stomach and intestinal contents collected from four individuals suggest this species feeds on large-bodied moths.
Distribution
M. megalophylla, the only North American representative of the Family Mormoopidae, inhabits humid, semi-arid, and arid regions below 10,000 feet elevation from southwestern Texas and southern Arizona southward through Baja California and mainland Mexico into eastern Honduras and El Salvador. Records also occur for the Netherlands Antilles and Trinidad, along the Caribbean coast of Columbia and Venezuela, and along the Pacific coasts of Columbia, Ecuador, and northern Peru. In Arizona, it is known only from the southern end of the Santa Rita Mountains, and in Texas from the Trans-Pecos, South Texas Plains, and the southern edge of the Edwards Plateau. This species is found in a variety of habitats including desert scrub, mixed boreal-tropical forests (the transitional zone between pine-oak forest and tropical deciduous forest between approximately 5,000 and 7,000 feet elevation), tropical rain forests, and riparian areas with mature cottonwood, sycamore, and willow in oak-woodland habitat.
Threats and Reasons for Decline
No known threats to the species have been identified to date. However, some of the general threats to bats could apply to this species. These could include impacts to cave and mine roosts, use of pesticides, and alteration of foraging areas from timer harvest or agriculture.
Ongoing Recovery
Locating and protecting key cave roosts is important, though full status evaluation and an understanding of critical habitat requirements necessitate further study.

Apparently this species does not hibernate, but very little is known of its seasonal movements. Likewise, little is known of its foraging habits and food preferences, and virtually nothing is known on its reproductive habits. Status of historic roosts and active searching for unreported roosts should be undertaken.
For more information
  • Refer to the online version of The Mammals of Texas for additional details on the Ghost-faced Bat.

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