Out of the 119 species of bats found in India, 28 occur in Kerala. They are classified into two groups – large frugivorous bats ‘Megachiroptera’ and small carnivorous bats ‘Microchiroptera’. Most prominent among the first group is the Indian Flying Fox or Great Indian Fruit Bat which is also the largest bat in the world.
The scientific name given to the Indian flying-fox is ‘Pteropus Giganteus’, which belongs to the Pteropodidae family of Megachiroptera suborder and Chiroptera order under the subclass Eutheria of Mammalia.
The Indian flying-fox prefers tropical and subtropical forests for dwelling and lives in colonies. It is nocturnal in nature, which means active in the night time and resting during day. It feeds mainly on ripe fruits which include mangoes, guavas and papayas.
It roosts upside down like other bats and leaves the perch at night and travels in a group to a feeding site possibly more than 30 miles away. Interestingly, flying-bats fly in the same route in a queue aiming at a regular feeding station. They have the habit of establishing permanent roosting sites on large trees, even in the midst of towns.
Its structure is comparatively large with an average length of 12 inches and a wing span of around 50 inches. Its head is usually reddish brown in colour which closely resembles that of a fox. A male adult may weigh between 3 to 4 lbs, while a female weighs nearly 2 lbs.
In India, Indian flying-foxes are widely seen all over.