The Cuban greater funnel-eared bat is the largest Caribbean representative of a small, ancient family of cave-dwelling bats that evolved in the West Indies.
Until a living population was found in 1992, it was thought to be an extinct species, with fossil localities known from nearly all the island of Cuba, as well as on Isla de la Juventud, Grand Cayman and various islands in the Bahamas. The species is only known from a single ‘hot cave’, the remote Cueva La Barca, located on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula at the western tip of Cuba within one of the largest remaining tracts of Cuban lowland forest. Because natalid bats congregate in large, conspicuous colonies, this is likely to be the sole locality for living Natalus on the entire island of Cuba. The global population size of the species remains unknown, although some reports have said that there are several hundred individuals remaining.
- Order: Chiroptera
- Family: Natalidae
- Population: Unknown
- Trend: decreasing
- Size: 46.1-51.2 mm (?)
This species is cave-roosting and is known from a single ‘hot cave’ location; Cueva la Barca, located near the western tip of Cuba within one of the largest remaining tracts of lowland forest on the island. Following the rediscovery of the species, the boundaries of Guanahacabibes National Park were extended to encompass Cueva la Barca (with a buffer of ~500 m). It is considered unlikely that other caves containing the species remain undiscovered, since all hot caves large enough for a resident population are thought to have been thoroughly surveyed.
Habitat and Ecology
The funnel-eared bat is a slow-flying, understorey bat, which probably feeds primarily on soft-bodied insects, like moths and crickets. This species roosts in gregarious colonies within a cave, and is insectivorous. Natalids are restricted to hot caves probably because they are susceptible to dehydration; they quickly perish when taken out of humid environments and have not been successfully kept in captivity. The echolocation call parameters for the funnel-eared bat are in the process of being described, and new details on its roosting ecology and behaviour have also been uncovered from the acoustic monitoring. Although being the largest natalid species, is likely a poor disperser and may only forage at short distances from its roosting site. But with the national park boundary so close to Cueva la Barca, a critical unknown is the foraging distribution of the species and, in particular, whether key habitat for the species remains unprotected.