Chiroptera: Pteropodidae: Pteropus
Illustration by *JennyParks
Done as part of a larger commission for a research project by Susan M. Tsang [a CCNY grad student] who studies the phylogeography of Southeast Asian animals, particularly that of flying foxes Pteropus, she says, is an ideal focal taxon for Southeast Asian biogeographic studies.
- Flying foxes are Old World fruit bats that play an important role in seed dispersal in island ecosystems.
- They are distinct evolutionarily from other bats in their reliance on sight and smell for navigation and for their plant-based diet.
- They are also increasingly recognized as natural reservoir hosts for emerging infectious pathogens.
Flying foxes have evolved with these pathogens so they are not harmed by them, but as humans and agricultural activity increasingly encroach on natural habitats, we increase the potential of transmitting pathogens between organisms that would not naturally co-occur otherwise.
Furthermore, flying foxes are hunted heavily as part of the bushmeat trade or by farmers who view them as pests. A majority of flying foxes are endangered and their dizzying population declines are a major cause for concern to biologists.