|Myotis lucifugus (LeConte)
Little Brown Bat
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
3-4 in. (75-98 mm)
1 1/4-1 3/4 in. (30-45 mm)
- Hind foot:
1/4 - 3/8 in. (8.5 - 10 mm)
1/4-1/3 oz. (7-10 g)
Bats are unique among mammals because their forelimbs are
specialized for true flight. Flight membranes, which are
actually extensions of the skin of the back and belly,
connect the body with the wings, legs, and tail. Unlike
birds, bats use both legs and wings during flight. Other
modifications for flight include greatly elongated fingers
to provide support for the wing membrane, a keeled sternum
for the attachment of the enlarged flight muscles, and
fusion of some vertebrae. The membrane extending from the
tail to the hind legs is known as the interfemoral membrane.
The little brown bat is brownish. The hairs on the back have
long, glossy tips that give the pelage a metallic sheen. The
underparts are whitish or gray washed with buff. The ears,
wings, and tail membranes are dark brown. The ear reaches to
the tip of the nose when laid forward. Hairs on the hind
feet extend beyond the toes.
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The little brown bat is found from Alaska across Canada and the United
States as far south as southern California, Arizona, New Mexico,
southeastern Oklahoma, northern Alabama, and northern Georgia.
All of the park's caves provide critically important habitats for bats.
During the summer, these bats are usually found in buildings, towers,
hollow trees, beneath the loose bark of trees, in crevices of cliffs,
and beneath bridges. During winter, these colonial bats move into caves
and abandoned mines where they either hang individually or in small
clusters of 25 to 30.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The little brown bat has been recorded from eleven
localities in the park and along the Foothills Parkway.
- Blount Co.:
Blowhole Cave in Whiteoak Sink;
Saltpeter Cave (1750 ft.); Bull
Cave; Calf Cave No. 2; Scott Gap
Cave; Tory Shields Bluff Cave.
- Sevier Co.:
Greenbrier Cove (2200 ft.); park headquarters.
- Haywood Co.:
- Swain Co.:
Hazel Creek Ranger Station.
Mating occurs in late summer but may also occur during
the hibernation period (Harvey et al.,
1999). Females store the sperm through winter, and
ovulation and fertilization take place in the spring when
females tend to congregate in nursery colonies, where each
bears a single young about 60 days after fertilization.
The little brown bat holds the record for longevity among
bats - 32 years (Linzey, 1998).
- Terrestrial Ecology
The senses of sight and hearing are well-developed in bats.
Since most bats become active near dusk and are active much
of the night, sight is of little importance in navigation and
in the capture of prey. Instead, they use echolocation, a
system somewhat similar to radar. They emit ultrasonic calls
far above the range of human hearing that are reflected from
objects ahead of them. They hear the echoes and are able to
avoid obstacles and find food in total darkness. Different
species can be distinguished by differences in the structure
of their echolocation calls (Fenton and Bell,
1981). Little brown bats forage over water as well as
among trees in rather open areas (Harvey et
During feeding maneuvers, the tail and wing membranes are used
to capture and restrain prey. Some insects are captured by the
tail membrane, which forms a pouch-like compartment. The bat
must bend its head forward in order to grasp the insect with
its teeth and take it into its mouth. Sometimes the bat may
use its mouth to capture an insect from its wing.
Eleven species of bats have been recorded in the park and
all feed exclusively on insects. During the colder months
when flying insects are unavailable, bats must either
hibernate or migrate to warmer areas. Eight of our bats
are known to hibernate. Only three - the red bat, hoary bat,
and the silver-haired bat - are migratory. Bats have been
seen flying over the park during every month of the year.
When flying during the winter, however, they do not feed.
- Predators and Defense
No predators recorded from the park.
None recorded from the park.
- Transmittable Diseases
Bats are capable of transmitting two diseases to humans - rabies
and histoplasmosis. Histoplasmosis is a disease caused by inhaling
dust that contains contaminated spores. Tuttle (
1988) stated: "Less than a half of 1 percent of bats contract
rabies, a frequency no higher than that seen in many other animals.
Like others, they die quickly, but unlike even dogs and cats, rabid
bats seldom become aggressive." Bats do not attack when they get
rabies; they just lie in one place. Although it is rare for humans
to contract rabies from infected bats, persons handling them should
be aware of this possibility.
Links to Other Sites
- Special Protection Status
- In Park:
All plants and animals are protected within
Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Collection requires a permit which is usually granted only for
research or educational purposes.
- Map development
- Web page design & coding
- Denise Lim, University of Georgia, Athens
- John Pickering, University of Georgia, Athens
Barbour, R.W. and W. H. Davis. 1969.
Bats of America. Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky.
Fenton, M.B. and R.M.R. Barclay. 1980.
Myotis lucifugus. Mammalian Species No. 142: 1-8.
American Society of Mammalogists
Fenton, M.B., and G.P. Bell. 1981.
Recognition of insectivorous bats by their
echolocation calls. Journal of Mammalogy 62 (2): 233-243.
Fenton, M.B. 1999a.
Little brown bat. Pages 94 - 95. In: D.E. Wilson, and S.
Ruff (eds.). The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals.
Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
Harvey, M.J., J.S. Altenbach, and T.L. Best. 1999.
Bats of the United States. Little Rock: Arkansas Game and
Linzey, D. W. 1995a.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc., Blacksburg, Virginia.
Linzey, D. W. 1995b.
Mammals of Great Smoky Mountains National Park-1995 Update.
Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society 111(1):1-81.
Linzey, D. W. 1998.
The Mammals of Virginia. Blacksburg, Virginia:
The McDonald & Woodward Publishing Company, Inc.
Tuttle, M.D. 1988.
America's Neighborhood Bats. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Last modified: 8 April, 2002