Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Holy crap - what was that!

Big, day-flying bats are something that takes a little getting used to. Arriving in Biyadhoo I was pretty shocked to see one of these go over my head. Its not that they are particularly unexpected there, it is just that they are a) massive and b) totally unlike birds in flight and hence very unfamiliar silhouettes to have in your peripheral vision. When people talk about frigate birds as prehistoric or primeval looking I don't always get it. These things are really primeval looking.

flying fox

I spent my non-diving time failing to get good photos. of these The jungly nature of the interior of the island, cut through with paths, left very narrow "shooting lanes" in which to pick up a fox, get the camera on it, focus and shoot before it was obscured by vegetation again. I attribute the shot above solely to the training my reactions got on a charity skeet shoot a couple of weeks earlier.

I'm pretty sure this is Pteropus giganteus ariel; the Maldivian subspecies of Indian Flying Fox. There is a second Pteropus species found in the Maldives (Pteropus hypomelanus - the small flying fox). I've identified these animals as the former based solely on scale. They are too big for hypomelanus (I believe). It is a fruit eater and seemed to like roosting in coconut fronds - generally it's a gregarious species but I didn't manage to find a big roost of these on the island. Incidentally you may have heard the theory that flying foxes are actually winged lemur-type primates as opposed to big bats. Its a cool theory and it suggests an explanation for the lemur looking head these bats have. Unfortunately it is also probably wrong as Darren explains with typical skill here.

5 comments:

Sally said...

I'm fascinated by these-- but had no idea they were out in daytime! Sounds like it evoked a rather primeval reaction in you as well!

Thanks...

Floridacracker said...

WOW!

tai haku said...

Thanks both - awesome eh?

Tony Wildish said...

that's a fantastic photo, the blur on the palm tree shows how well you tracked its flight. Well done!

I've seen these in the Maldives too. One late afternoon on the way back from a dive-site we had one fly alongside our dhoni for a few minutes, that was a real treat.

tai haku said...

Thanks Tony! Very cool animals to see as you say. Freakishly bigger than expected too.