Myzopoda aurita ready to cling! - photo by Daniel Riskin
This is the sucker-footed bat, or Myzopoda aurita - myzo meaning "suck," poda meaning "foot." Though contrary to its name and what was previously thought, it does not adhere to surfaces by means of suction but rather by wet adhesion, as research by Daniel Riskin and Paul Racey has discovered.
These little guys (and girls) are two inches long and weigh 1/3 of an ounce. They roost head-up, way up in the furled leaves (that open at the top) of the Traveler's tree in Madagascar. Only six species (out of 1,200) of bats are known to roost in an upright position. They do so because it allows for a quick escape from predators.
These Old World bats have flat to slightly convex pads at their wrists and ankles that enable them to cling to the smooth surfaces of the leaves. Or Plexiglas.
Myzopoda aurita climbing on Plexiglas - photo by Daniel Riskin
foot pad of Myzopoda aurita - photo by Daniel Riskin
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Below we have Myzopoda aurita's Neotropical buddy - Thyroptera tricolor, or Spix's disk-winged bat. (Well, I'd like to think they'd be buddies, having quite a few things in common.) These even tinier insectivorous bats are found in the New World tropics of Central and South America.
Thyroptera tricolor also has little adhesive structures at its wrists and ankles and is also known to roost upright in rolled up leaves. However, its discs are concave and do cling to surfaces by means of suction. This gives Thyroptera tricolor the ability to cling to a surface at any angle, including head-down; whereas, Myzopoda aurita, using wet adhesion, doesn't have this ability - it can only roost head-up. Riskin believes that Thyroptera tricolor is in a later stage of evolution than Myzopoda aurita because of this ability to roost head-up or head-down.
Riskin will be joining the faculty at the City University of New York where he will head the Riskin Lab later this year. He's lookin' for grad students...
Link to Daniel K. Riskin and Paul A. Racey's recently published article:
Many many thanks to Dr. Riskin for letting me use his awesome bat photographs here and elsewhere in hey little bat!!