Hawai'i's only native land mammal? A bat!

Just hanging out, taking a break from eating yummy insects! Photo by: Jack Jeffrey

Lasiurus cinereus semotus
Common Names: Hawaiian hoary bat, Ope‘ape‘a
Listing Status: Endangered
Where Listed: Wherever Found

The Hawaiian hoary bat or as it is known locally, Ope‘ape‘a, is Hawai‘i’s only native land mammal. While ‘hoary’ refers to the frosted appearance of its fur, the name Ope‘ape‘a means ‘half-leaf’ in Hawaiian and refers to the bat’s wing shape in flight. Found on all the main Hawaiian Islands, it has evolved to be about 30-40% smaller than its mainland cousin, the North American hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus). You won’t find this insect eater in large colonies in caves or lava tubes because Ope‘ape‘a are tree roosting and solitary. Recent studies have started to unravel some of the many questions about this mysterious species and current research from USGS-Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center includes exploring genetics, as well as looking at their diet, tree roost selection and habitat use.

The ‘Bat Team’ of the US Geological Survey-Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center is led by Research Wildlife Biologist Frank Bonaccorso, Ph.D and includes Zoologist Kristina Montoya-Aiona. It is also a collaborative effort with the University of Hawai‘i- Hilo Hawai‘i Cooperative Studies Unit and includes Hoary Bat Research Supervisor Corinna Pinzari and Quantitative Ecologist Marcos Gorresen.

Do you see the ‘half-leaf’ wing shape?! Photo by: Jack Jeffrey