Orange diamond-faced bat: “The Termite-inator” of Australian mammals

Name(s): Orange diamond-faced bat (Rhinonicteris aurantia), other common names include: orange leaf-nosed bat, orange horseshoe bat, orange horseshoe-bat, and golden horseshoe bat.

Size: About 43-53mm and weighing only 7-11g, this little bat (with its wings tucked in) could fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.

Diet: Primarily moths and beetles, however during the wet season this orange ball of fluff turns into the ‘the termite-inator’ devouring any flying termite in its path.

Habitat/range: Endemic to Australia and found from north-west Qld through the Top End and into Kimberley, WA. There is also a small, isolated sub species population in the Pilbara region.

Conservation status: Least Concern.

Superpower/fun fact: To escape its evil nemesis the ghost bat (who often devours orange bat rump for dinner), orange diamond-faced bats exit their roost in an erratic zigzag pattern at speeds up to 26km per hour to take cover in nearby vegetation.

Photo of an orange diamond-faced bat on a cave ceiling,
Orange diamond-faced bat. © Isaac Clarey, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC)

A beautifully bold bat with rich golden orange fur contrasting with its dark brown mysterious wings. Its diamond shaped nose leaf and pointy ears make it a real showstopper – a bat that is not afraid to stand out from the crowd! And why shouldn’t it stand out? Why shouldn’t it be proud to be different from all the other bats? Why shouldn’t it shoot for the stars and become our shining orange Cosmos Australian Mammal of the Year?

The orange diamond-faced bat Rhinonicteris aurantia is found in no other country in the world, and of the 90 plus bat species in Australia it is the only member of the family Rhinonycteridae (the trident bat family). Globally, this is a family of bats that now only consists of a handful of other bat species, making our orange diamond-faced bat pretty darn special!  

Multiple orange diamond-faced bat calls. Credit: Kelly Sheldrick
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Sonogram of the calls of multiple orange diamond-faced bats. Credit: Kelly Sheldrick

And that’s not all… our orange furry friends were flying around over 5 million years ago when marsupial lions and gigantic thunder birds still roamed the land. Outliving some big predators and surviving over 5 million years must make you a tough cookie!

During the dry season orange diamond-faced bats hang out in caves and abandoned mines. Just like humans, some of these bats like the hustle and bustle of big metropolitan life and choose to roost in caves with colonies of over 20,000 other bats. Other orange diamond-faced bats prefer the quieter country-like pace of a small colony, sometimes as small as only five other bats.

An orange diamond-faced bat calls. Credit: Kelly Sheldrick
A sonogram of a single orange diamond-faced bat's calls.
A sonogram of a single orange diamond-faced bat’s calls. Credit: Kelly Sheldrick

One thing we can all agree on is that they like it hot! Hot and humid! So, there is little surprise they like to hang out in the tropical north of Australia. This does, however, make them susceptible to hypothermia and dehydration and their rates of evaporative water loss are double that of other bats. 

Like all microbats, our orange diamond-faced bats produce echolocation, which is a bit like a torch that helps them see in the dark. The echolocation calls produced by our orange furry friends are very sophisticated, produced at a very high frequency and nasally. Yes, that’s right, they produce bat calls through their nose-leaf!

Voting for Australian Mammal of the Year 2023 is now open!

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