|Myotis leibii (Audubon and Bachman)
Eastern Small-footed Bat
Don Linzey & Christy Brecht
Wytheville Community College
Wytheville, Virginia 24382
Last updated: 26 November, 2005
- Adult total length:
2 3/4 - 3 3/4 in. (69 - 95 mm)
1 - 1 3/4 in. (25 - 45 mm)
- Hind foot:
1/4 - 3/8 in. (6 - 8 mm)
1/7 - 1/4 oz. (4 - 8 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 eastern small-footed bat is the smallest member of the
genus Myotis in North America. The fur is long, silky, and tan to golden-brown.
The two main distinguishing characteristics are a distinct black mask across the
face and the tiny feet that average only approximately 5/16 of an inch (7 to 8 mm)
left lateral view of
skull and mandible
dorsal view of skull
ventral view of skull
The eastern small-footed bat ranges throughout the northeastern United States,
south in the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia and west to eastern Oklahoma.
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. The eastern small-footed bat has been found most commonly in caves in forested areas.
They are one of the last bats to enter caves in autumn and often hibernate near cave or mine
entrances where temperatures drop below freezing and where humidity is relatively low
(Harvey et al., 1999). Some individuals have also been taken in rock crevices, beneath bridges,
and in buildings.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park:
The eastern small-footed bat is among the rarest bats in the park.
The first recorded individual was discovered in a cabin at Porters
Flat in Greenbrier Cove on April 24, 1970 at an elevation of
approximately 2,200 feet (Neuhauser, 1971). On June 19, 1989, a
second specimen was identified roosting in a building at park headquarters.
- Sevier Co.:
Greenbrier Cove (2200 ft.); park headquarters.
Little is known about the reproductive habits. Mating occurs
in autumn and sperm is stored in the female until fertilization
in the spring. Females give birth to a single young between late
May and July. Nursery colonies containing as many as 20 bats have
been reported from buildings (Harvey et al., 1999).
The longest recorded lifespan of a wild individual has been 12 years
(Hitchcock, 1965; Kunz, 1982).
- 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).
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.
Chiggers identified as Trombicula (Leptotrombidium) myotis
were collected from the posterior margins of the ears of the Porters
Flat specimen (Neuhauser, 1971).
- 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
The eastern small-footed bat has been designated as a
species of "state concern" in North Carolina.
- 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.
Best, T.L. and J. B. Jennings. 1997.
Myotis leibii. Mammalian Species No. 547: 1-6.
American Society of Mammalogists.
Bogan, M. A. 1999.
Eastern small-footed myotis. Pages 93-94.
In: D. E. Wilson, and S. Ruff (eds.). The Smithsonian
Book of North American Mammals. Washington, D.C.:
Smithsonian Institution Press.
Fenton, M.B., and G.P. Bell. 1981.
Recognition of insectivorous bats by their
echolocation calls. Journal of Mammalogy 62 (2): 233-243.
Harvey, M.J. 1992.
Bats of the eastern United States.
Little Rock: Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Hitchcock, H.B. 1965.
Twenty-three years of bat-banding in Ontario and Quebec.
Canadian Field-Naturalist 79: 4-14.
Kunz, T. H. (ed.). 1982.
Ecology of Bats. New York: Plenum Press.
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
Neuhauser, H.N. 1971.
Myotis leibii leibii in the Great Smoky Mountains
National Park. Journal of the Tennessee Academy of Science 46(2): 1219.
Tuttle, M.D. 1988.
America's Neighborhood Bats. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Last modified: 8 April, 2002