Confirmed! Luzon-endemic megabat exists in Masungi; experts have seen one

What was once a subject of a Reddit thread has been confirmed by mammal researchers recently: the famed Mottle-winged Flying Fox (Desmalopex leucopterus) indeed exists in the Masungi landscape, the Masungi Georeserve said Sunday, August 21.

Luzon-endemic Mottle-winged Flying Fox (Photo by Masungi Georeserve)

A group of mammal researchers went on a research expedition in the mountains of Masungi last August 1 and recorded the Mottle-winged Flying Fox, the first in Rizal province, a few days later. The research expedition was made possible with the support of the Embassy of Canada to the Philippines through the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives and the Buhay-ilang research team.

Mariah Dichoso, project lead, and Joel Sarmiento, a mammal expert, were behind the discovery of the Luzon-endemic Mottle-winged Flying Fox which was once elusive to researchers.

The Mottle-winged Flying Fox belongs to a genus of megabats that only exists in the Philippines and is considered as among the largest bats in the world.

Luzon-endemic Mottle-winged Flying Fox (Photo by Masungi Georeserve)

It is characterized by its medium to pale brown wings with white blotches, particularly on the foremost edge of the wing, and around the wingtip.

It is because of their appearance that looks like a fox that they were named flying foxes. They typically have a total length of around 185 to 240 millimeters and weigh around 250 to 375 grams.

Dichoso said that their team saw an unidentified bat species flying around Masungi and feeding on the young flowers of the cotton trees and figs during the first leg of the expedition in February.

The existence of the megabat was finally confirmed during the second leg of the expedition this month along with the discovery of 11 new record bat species, she said. In total, the team recorded 21 bat species: six were fruit-eating bats and 15 were insect-eating.

Luzon-endemic Mottle-winged Flying Fox (Photo by Masungi Georeserve)

“It said a lot about Masungi to see this type of flying fox as it tends to forage in smaller groups and cluttered canopies to lessen their exposure to predators. There is an abundance of food resources found in Masungi which the flying foxes use a foraging site. This indicates Masungi is protected and has a healthy forest within its borders,” Dichoso said.

In August 2018, a photo of a “human-sized” bat made rounds on Reddit, a social news website and forum, igniting the curiosity of many netizens. The giant bat was sleeping upside down and instantly became a trending topic on various social media sites.

It was found out that the human-sized bat was actually a Giant Golden-crowned Flying Fox (Acerodon jubatus) which belongs to the Pteropodidae family like the Mottle-winged Flying Fox.

The Mottle-wingled Flying Fox comprises of three known species, each endemic to a particular island: Luzon, Mondoro, and Dinagat. The Luzon Mottle-winged Flying Fox usually resides in mountainous and forested regions, according to experts.

Luzon-endemic Mottle-winged Flying Fox (Photo by Masungi Georeserve)

Although bats have negative notions circulating about them especially during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when they became known as virus carriers, mammal researcher Renz Duco said they are “very important” in keeping the balance of the ecosystem.

Fruit-eating bats, he said, are effective fruit dispersers and pollinators while insect-eating bats are efficient in managing insect pest population.

“To maintain that balance, we need to help them by preserving their habitat,” Duco said.