Across the world, there are a staggering 1,400 species of bat. Amazingly enough, these species can all be categorized into two specific suborders – Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera within the order Chiroptera.
As the names might suggest, megachiroptera (Megabats) was the name given to the suborder containing the largest species of bats, and microchiroptera (Microbats) given to the suborder containing smaller bats. However, as it turns out this is not entirely true. Some megabats are smaller than microbats and vice versa.
For example, the Greater horseshoe bat is one of the ten largest bats in the world, but horseshoe bats fall into the suborder of microbats. While the taxonomy of bats may be a little ‘complicated’ at best, that doesn’t mean we cant judge which are the biggest species. So we take a look at which species are the ten largest, and where they live, as well as a few bat facts for good measure!
Facts About The Largest Bats In The World
- Not all megabats (megachiroptera) are big and not all microbats (microchiroptera) are small.
- For most bats, including the largest species, disease is a bigger threat than predators.
- The largest bat colony in the world can be found in Bracken Bat Cave in Texas
- Some Flying Fox Bats have a wingspan larger than the average adult human!
- Bats with the largest wingspan are not always the bats with the largest/longest bodies.
- With a wingspan of 40 cm, Hoary Bats of the microchiroptera grouping are larger than some bats in the megachiroptera grouping.
The Ten Largest Bats In The World
10. Greater Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus Ferrumequinum)
The Greater Horseshoe Bat, is a European bat mostly, but can also be found in areas of North Africa and Asia too. It is the largest horseshoe bat in Europe, and can reach around 11.4 centimetres from nose to tail. It also has a wingspan of 34 – 39 centimetres and can be easily identified by the flap of horseshoe shaped skin around the nostrils on its fleshy nose.
The Greater Horseshoe Bat is known to eat large insects in flight and prefers to roost while hanging upside down. It can weight up to 30 grams and is known to live for up to 30 years. They are not so common in the UK, but populations are known to live and breed in the South of England and parts of Wales.
- Location: Widely Across Europe, North Africa, Central and Eastern Asia
- Wingspan: 34 – 39 cm (13.5 to 15.5-in)
- Size: Up to 11.4 cm (4.5 in) from nose to tail
9. Greater Spear-Nosed Bat (Phyllostomus Hastatus)
The Greater Spear-Nosed Bat is one of the largest to live in it’s habitat, in South and Central America. It can be found on some islands including Trinidad and Tobago, but mostly in the North and East of South America (Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay) as well as Guatemala and Belize.
Males tend to have a body length up to 5.1 inches and females slightly shorter up to 4.9 inches. However, females can have a larger wingspan than males. They are recognisable, as the name suggests, by their distinct spear shaped nose leaf.
- Location: South and Central America
- Wingspan: Up to 45.5 cm (17.9 in) for males – 55cm (21.6 in) for females.
- Size: 10–13 cm (3.9–5.1 in) from nose to tail
8. Spectral Bat (Vampyrum Spectrum)
The Spectral Bat is the only bat in the Americas larger than the Greater Spear-Nose Bat. They are also the largest carnivorous bats in the world. They were once thought to feed on blood and are sometimes known as the Great False Vampire Bat because of this. There are real vampire bats that do feed on blood, but they are small in size. It is the only living member of the vampyrum genus.
Colonies of this bat will generally roost in tree hollows and consist of a monogamous mating pair and their offspring. Notable features include rounded – almost squarish wingtips, a large nose leaf and short reddish-brown hair on it’s back with a lighter belly.
- Location: Mexico, South America, Central America
- Wingspan: Between 70-100 cm (28-40 in)
- Size: Up to 13.5-14.7 cm (5.3-5.8 in) long
7. Greater Noctule Bat (Nyctalus Lasiopterus)
The Greater Noctule Bat is the largest bat in Europe and is the only carnivorous bat known to hunt birds while they are in flight. They make up for poorly developed eyes with exceptional hearing and smell. They also use echolocation, to identify and locate prey.
While these bats are found throughout West Asia and North Africa, the most dense populations are found in Spain. It is a true nocturnal animal, only surfacing long after the sun is down. They are identifiable through their reddish brown fur, with a dark brown to black face and wings. Although they have a shorter wingspan than the Spectral Bat and the Greater Spear-Nosed Bat, they do have a larger body including the tail.
- Location: Europe, North Africa, West Asia
- Wingspan: 41–46 cm (16–18 in)
- Size: 13.9-17 cm (5.5-6.7 in) including the tail
6. Franquet’s Epauletted Fruit Bat (Epomops Franqueti)
Franquet’s Epauletted Fruit Bat is found throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly central and Western countries from the Ivory Coast to the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is not found in the East or South of Africa. As the name suggests, this bat lives mostly on a diet of fruit, but will also eat nectar and the flowers of some plants. As it is a fruit bat, it also fits into the traditional grouping of being a megabat.
Little is known about the ecology or reproductive habits of these bats, but they are known to be rather solitary or live in small groups. Males are generally larger and heavier, weighing up to 160 grams, whereas females grow up to a weight of 116 grams. Males also differ from females in that they have two pharyngeal sacs and shoulder pouches.
The Franquet’s Epauletted Fruit Bat has white tufts of hair on it’s shoulders, but otherwise has a dark fur over the rest of its body.
- Location: West and Central Sub-Saharan Africa
- Wingspan: Average 60 cm (24 Inches)
- Size: 16.5 to 18.0 cm (6.5 to 7.1 in) including the tail
5. Madagascan Flying Fox
The Madagascan Flying Fox is of the megachiroptera sub order. It is endemic to the south-east African island of Madagascar, and with a wingspan up to 49 inches (just over 4 feet) long is also the largest bat on the island. Flying Foxes in general are large bats, but Madagascan Flying Foxes are easily one of the largest. It is also the most populous bat on the island.
While many bats use echolocation to hunt and have poor eyesight, the Madagascan flying fox is quite the opposite. It doesn’t use echolocation and has exceptional eyesight and hearing. It also lives and roosts in trees rather than caves. These frugivorous bats mostly consume fruit, but will also eat leaves from some trees, as well as nectar and flowers.
While male and female bats are similar in size and appearance, males generally have slightly larger heads. They have brown to gold coloring on their bodies but the wings are a darker grey to black.
- Location: Madagascar
- Wingspan: 100–125 cm (39–49 in)
- Size: 23.5–27 cm (9.1–10.5 in)
4. Hammer-Headed Bat (Hypsignathus Monstrosus)
The Hammer-Headed Bat is another fruit bat making it a traditional megabat. It is also sometimes known as the Big-Lipped Bat and there are significant differences between males and females of the species.
Males can be as much as twice the weight of females, growing up to 420 grams, compared to 234 grams for a female. Males can also have a larger wingspan up to around 90-100 cm (36-40 inches) and a longer body, up to 27.5 cm (11 in).
There are many other differences between the genders too. Males have vocal chords up to three times the size of females, which they use to create a variety of vocalizations. They also have peculiar looking resonating chambers on their faces which amplify these sounds. Other features include a split chin and a stumpy nose.
While there are populations of these bats in small areas of East Africa, the vast majority live in the forested areas of West and Central Africa, from as far West as Ghana, to the Central African Republic and DR Congo. Unfortunately in many central countries these bats are commonly eaten as bushmeat and may be a source of the Ebola virus.
As with other fruit bats, the Hammer-Headed Bat has a frugivorous diet, and they roost high up in the tree canopies of their forest habitats.
- Location: Central and Western Sub-Saharan Africa
- Wingspan: 90-100 cm (36-40 inches)
- Size: 20.5-27.5 cm (8-11 in)
The Top Three Largest Bats In The World
3. The Great Flying Fox (Pteropus Neohibernicus)
The third largest bat in the world is the Great Flying Fox. It is sometimes called the Bismarck flying fox owing to it being native to the Bismarck Archipelago and areas of New Guinea. It is the largest bat in the Melanesia area, and is one of the heaviest in the world, weighing up to a massive 1.45 kilograms.
Males are typically larger than females, growing up to around 27–33 cm (10.5–13.0 in) on average. Females on the other hand grow to around 23.4–28 cm (9.2–11.0 in) long. These bats also have a wingspan that can stretch 100-120 cm (39-47 in) across. Two other common features that distinguish this species are a long, narrow snout and no tail.
The Great Flying Fox lives for around 9 years on average, but has been recorded up to 23 years of age. As with all flying foxes, they use sight rather than echolocation to navigate around. Echolocation would not be very helpful for a fruit bat, as frugivores their food source is stationary and a echo pingback would not help them locate their food. So these bats have developed great eyesight and smell.
- Location: Melanesia – Specifically New Guinea and the Bismarck Archipelago
- Wingspan: 100-120 cm (39-47 in)
- Size: 27–33 cm (10.5–13.0 in)
2. Indian Flying Fox (Pteropus Medius)
The Indian Flying Fox bat can be found widely across the Indian subcontinent and is also India’s largest bat. It can be found as far south as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, right up to Tibet, Nepal and eastern populations in Myanmar. As a fruit bat, it is frugivorous and lives of a diet mainly consisting of fresh mangoes, bananas and nectar.
Males are larger than females, and can reach as heavy as 1.6 kilograms. The weight range is between 0.6–1.6 kg. They can grow to a larger weight than the Golden-Crowned Flying Fox but are generally not as long and do not have quite as large a wingspan. At up to 150 cm, they have the second largest wingspan, but are the third largest in terms of body length, behind the Great Flying Fox.
These bats have large eyes and ringed ears, and they can come in a variety of shades of grey and brown with a yellow-brown mantle.
- Location: Across the subcontinent of India
- Wingspan: 1.2–1.5 m (47–59 in)
- Size: 15.5–22.0 cm (6.1–8.7 in)
1. Golden-Crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon Jubatus)
The Golden-Crowned Flying Fox truly is a massive bat. Also known as the Golden-Capped Fruit Bat, this species is endemic across the Philippines, and can be found on many of the islands. They tend to inhabit swamp or mangrove areas away from humans, or forested areas particularly those close to cliffs.
In terms of size, these bats can weigh as much as 1.4 kilograms, and at 21 cm (8.3 in), it has the longest forearm length of all bat species. It is the long forearm length that allows for the largest wingspan of any species of bat. While it may be lighter and have a smaller body than the Indian Flying Fox and the Great Flying Fox, the wingspan is unmatched in size and it is generally considered to be the largest species.
In terms of appearance, the coat of these bats is short and smooth. They have black fur on their neck and face and brow, and maroon that stretches down their back. The have the appearance of wearing a golden crown, with golden fur stretching from the eyes over the top of their head.
- Location: Across the Philippines
- Wingspan: 150–170 cm (59–67 in)
- Size: 18-29 cm (7-11.4 in)
Largest Bats FAQs
What Are Mega Bats?
Mega bats are one of the two traditional major groups of bat. Megachiroptera. They are often called fruit bats or flying foxes. The mega-bat family includes species of blossom bats, tube-nosed bats and flying-foxes
What Is The Biggest Bat Ever Recorded?
Even the Guinness Book Of Records, seems to concur that the largest bats ever recorded are the flying foxes, particularly those mentioned in this post. There are no other species ever found in archaeology or otherwise that beat this record.
What Is The Smallest Bat In The World?
The world’s smallest bat is the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat also known as the bumblebee bat. This bat lives in Thailand, weighs less than a penny and is smaller than the average thumbnail!