Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…
I present to you… (drumroll)…
The Bumblebee Bat
(aka Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat)!
The smallest mammal in the world is the bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai), weighing in at just barely 2 grams – about the weight of a penny! – and measuring 1 to 1.2 inches (3 cm) in length – about the size of a large bumblebee (hence the name).
OK… once you get over the unbelievable cuteness of this little thing, one question should immediately leap to mind.
Who’s Kitti? And how did she get a bat? OK, that was two questions. But still…
The bumblebee bat was discovered in 1974 by Thai zoologist Kitti Thonglongya. This helps explain the ‘Kitti’ in Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat. Kitti’s surname also helps explain the second half of this itsy-bitsy bat’s ludicrously long name. The ‘hog-nosed’ part is because of its pink, pig-like snout. As for the first half of the name, if the word Craseonycteris doesn’t seem to ring a bell with you, don’t feel too bad. This little critter is the only member of that genus. It is also the only member of the family Craseonycteridae. Lovely but lonely.
The world’s most darling chiropter does everything a regular bat does. The only thing that separates it from the others is its tiny size. Very rare and hard to find (well done, Kitti!), these little bats hover like humming birds and dwell deep in caves feeding on insects.
The winsome winged wonder has a reddish-brown or grey coat, with a distinctive pig-like snout (see mug shot above). Colonies range greatly in size, with an average of 100 individuals per cave. Bumblebee bats occupy limestone caves along rivers. The bat feeds during short activity periods in the evening and dawn, foraging around nearby forest areas for insects. Females give birth annually to a single offspring.
Although the bat’s status in south-east Myanmar (Burma) is not well-known, the Thai population is restricted to a single province in western Thailand and may be at risk for extinction. Its potential threats are primarily anthropogenic (i.e. it’s our fault), and include habitat degradation and the disturbance of roosting sites. The bumblebee bat’s habitat is being destroyed (big surprise) by deforestation and tourism, leading the International Union for Conservation of Nature to classify the little sweetie-pie as endangered.
I hope the future is kind to this marvel of nature. What a crime it would be if there wasn’t enough room in the world for something so tiny yet so wonderful.