Coleura afra

Bonaccorso, Frank, 2019, Family Emballonuridae (Sheath-tailed Bats), Handbook of the Mammals of the World, Vol. 9, Lyny Edicions, pp. 350-373: 362

publication ID


persistent identifier

treatment provided by


scientific name

Coleura afra


29 View On . African Sheath-tailed Bat

Coleura afra  

French: Emballonure d’Afrique I German: Afrika-reischwanzfledermaus I Spanish: Embalonuro africano

Other common names: Mozambique Sheath-tailed Bat

Taxonomy. EmbaUonura afra Peters, 1852   , Tete , Mozambique   .

A. Monard in 1939 applied the name kummeri to the West African population, but it is now considered a synonym of C. afra   . K F. Koopman in 1965 and 1975 recognized three “poorly defined” subspecies: a / ra, gallarum, and nilosa (latter two named by O. Thomas in 1915). These are not recognized by most chiropteran taxonomists. Monotypic.

Distribution. W, C & E Africa, in Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, and from Ghana to W Nigeria, also from Central African Republic, N DR Congo, Uganda, and W Tanzania E to coastal Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, and Kenya, with outliers in coastal Angola (Benguela), N Mozambique, and coastal Yemen. It very likely has been overlooked in coastal Angola and Mozambique. View Figure

Descriptive notes. Head-body 55-65 mm, tail 10-11 mm, ear 13-1-15-3 mm, hindfoot 8 5-10 ’5 mm, forearm 45-55 mm; weight 10-12 g. The African Sheath-tailed Bat is sexually dimorphic, with females larger than males (average forearm is 49 mm for females and 46 mm for males). Dorsal pelage is brown, with pale base; venter is slightly paler. Wing membranes are translucent pale brown; wingspan is c.220 mm. Ears are relatively large, with bases well below eyes and nearly reaching comers of mouth. Muzzle is pointed, and nostrils project beyond lower lip. Rostral part ofskull comprises about three-quarters of length of skull. Sagittal crest is weak. Upper incisors are tiny, and lower incisors are tricuspids. Canines are large, with well-developed cingula. P1 is tiny relative to P 2. Dental formula is 11/3, C 1/1, P 2/2, M 3/3 (x2) = 32.

Habitat. Dry woodlands, dry forests, and rocky habitats close to lakes or coastal areas.

Food and Feeding. The African Sheath-tailed Bat forages for insects by fest hawking in open spaces. Moths and beetles comprise 40-70% of the diet through the year.

Breeding. Gestation of the African Sheath-tailed Bat lasts 114-122 days. Mothers carry the single young for an extended period when foraging. Parturition is highly synchronized and occurs twice a year in Kenya during long (March-June) and short (November-December) rainy seasons. Males and females become sexually mature in their first year of life.

Activity patterns. The African Sheath-tailed Bat is crepuscular and emerges from roosting at dusk to forage. It roosts in lit areas of caves and rocky outcrops but also in dark abandoned buildings. To hunt for insects, African Sheath-tailed Bats produce LDC- QCF echolocation calls, with peak frequency at 33 kHz, short bandwidth (c.2-4 kHz), and long duration (7-7 milliseconds). Fundamental and second harmonics often show in a spectrogram. Echolocation call is well designed for targeting aerial prey at relatively long distances.

Movements, Home range and Social organization. African Sheath-tailed Bats are highly gregarious and can be found in roosting colonies of hundreds and up to 50,000 individuals in one instance in Kenya. Clusters of individuals can represent harems attended by a single breeding male that defends his breeding site. Within a cluster, individual spacing is maintained. Adult males reportedly defend individual feeding territories.

Status and Conservation. Classified as Least Concern on The IUCN Red List. The African Sheath-tailed Bat has a large distribution and large overall population. Nevertheless, population trends are unknown, and its distribution is not fully defined in some regions such as Angola, Mozambique, and Yemen. Large breeding roosts are vulnerable to disturbance and should receive protection.

Bibliography. ACR (2017), Dunlop (1998), Kingdon (1974), Koopman (1965, 1975), McWilliam (1987a), Monard (1939), Smithers & Lobâo Tello (1976), Rosevear (1965), Thomas (1915c).














Coleura afra

Bonaccorso, Frank 2019

EmbaUonura afra

Peters 1852


Peters 1852