Environment Australia, 1999
ISBN 0 642 2546 363
Taxon summary: Ghost Bat
Scientific name: Macroderma gigas (Dobson 1880)
Common name: Ghost Bat
Conservation status: Lower Risk (near threatened)
(See Section 1.5 Disagreements about categories of threat)
All of mainland Australia except Victoria, south-west Western Australia and eastern New South Wales (Finlayson 1958, Douglas 1967, Molnar et al. 1984).
Coastal and up to 400 km inland, throughout northern Australia, generally north of the Tropic of Capricorn, with the exception of the Pilbara in Western Australia (Richards and Hand 1995). The range appears to have contracted northwards in relatively recent times, especially in Central Australia (Churchill and Helman 1990).
Regional populations of this species are centred on maternity roosts that are genetically isolated from each other (Worthington-Wilmer et al. 1994). The persisting arid zone regional population in the Pilbara is also geographically isolated, being separated from extant northern Australian populations and the historical central Australian populations by extensive sandy deserts, and should be further assessed to determine its specific status. The central Australian population is considered to be extinct and the Pilbara population is considered vulnerable (A2c).
A wide range from rainforest, monsoon and vine scrub in the tropics to open woodlands and arid areas. Forages by gleaning and is carnivorous (Toop 1985, Schulz 1986). Obligate troglodyte, and survival is critically dependent on finding natural roosts in caves, crevices, deep overhangs, and artifical roosts such as abandoned mines (Hall et al. 1997). Each population appears to have a regionally centralised maternity site and only 10 such sites are known to exist (Worthington-Wilmer et al. 1994). Populations are known to disperse in the non-breeding (dry) season (Toop 1979, 1985).
Reasons for decline
Disturbance and loss of roosting sites due to mining, tourism and internal dereliction of mines through aging of timber supports are known threats (Hall et al. 1997). In recent times population declines could be attributable to competition for prey with foxes, feral cats, and prey lost through habitat modification by fire and livestock.
- Genetic studies to complete the work of Worthington-Wilmer et al. (1994) and better determine the status of the regional populations, the Pilbara population in particular. The question of conservation status of the regional populations can then be reconsidered.
- Determine the extent to which the Pilbara population is dependent upon old mines for its persistence in the region.
- Monitor regional populations to enable early detection of declines.
Churchill S.K. and Helman P.M. 1990. Distribution of the ghost bat, Macroderma gigas, (Chiroptera: Megadermatidae) in central and south Australia. Australian Mammalogy 13, 149–156.
Douglas A.M. 1967. The natural history of the ghost bat Macroderma gigas (Microchiroptera, Megadermatidae) in Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist 10, 125–137.
Finlayson H.H. 1958. ‘Recurrence’ of Macroderma gigas Dobson. Nature 4613, 923.
Hall L., Richards G.C., McKenzie N. L. and Dunlop N. 1997. The importance of abandoned mines as habitat for bats. pp. 326–334 in P. Hale and D. Lamb (Eds) Conservation Outside Nature Reserves. Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane.
Molnar R.E., Hall L.S. and Mahoney J.A. 1984. New fossil localities for Macroderma Miller,1906 (Chiroptera: Megadermatidae ) in New South Wales and its past and present distribution in Australia. Australian Mammalogy 7, 63–73.
Richards G.C. and Hand S. 1995. Ghost Bat Macroderma gigas. pp. 446–447 in R. Strahan (Ed.) The Mammals of Australia. Reed Books, Chatswood, NSW.
Schulz M. 1986. Vertebrate prey of the ghost bat, Macroderma gigas, at Pine creek, Northern Territory. Macroderma 2, 59–62.
Toop G.J. 1979. Ghost bat studies: compiled reports to Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, 1975–79. Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service, Canberra (unpublished).
Toop G.J. 1985. Habitat requirements, survival strategies and ecology of the ghost bat, Macroderma gigas Dobson, (Microchiroptera, Megadermatidae) in central coastal Queensland. Macroderma 1, 37–41.
Worthington-Wilmer J., Moritz C., Hall L. and Toop J. 1994. Extreme population structuring in the threatened Ghost Bat, Macroderma gigas: evidence from mitochondrial DNA. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London (1974) 257, 193–198.
Authors for the species