Journal of Threatened Taxa | | 26 June 2019 | 11(8): 14071–14074


Odisha’s first record of a free-tailed bat (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Molossidae): what could it be?


Subrat Debata 1 & Sharat Kumar Palita 2


1,2 Department of Biodiversity and Conservation of Natural Resources, Central University of Orissa, Koraput, Odisha 764021, India.

1, 2 (corresponding author)




Editor: Paul Racey, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK. Date of publication: 26 June 2019 (online & print)


Manuscript details: #4338 | Received 14 June 2018 | Final received 12 May 2019 | Finally accepted 01 June 2019


Citation: Debata, S. & S.K. Palita (2019). Odisha’s first record of a free-tailed bat (Mammalia: Chiroptera: Molossidae): what could it be?. Journal of Threatened Taxa 11(8): 14071–14074.


Copyright: © Debata & Palita 2019. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.  JoTT allows unrestricted use, reproduction, and distribution of this article in any medium by adequate credit to the author(s) and the source of publication.


Funding: University Grants Commission, New Delhi.


Competing interests: The authors declare no competing interests.


Acknowledgements: The study was carried out with financial support under UGC Non-NET PhD fellowship to the first author.  Both the authors would like to thank the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) and the Field Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve for providing essential permission to carry out bat surveys in Similipal Biosphere Reserve.  Authors are also thankful to Arajush Payra for sharing the unidentified bat images and Himanshu Shekhar Palei for preparing the map.  Thanks to the anonymous reviewer for providing valuable comments in improvising the manuscript.



Bats are one of the most abundant and widely distributed mammalian groups after rodents, represented by more than 1,300 species worldwide (Bat Conservation International 2013).  Free-tailed bats (Molossidae) are the fourth largest family of bats, containing approximately 110 species worldwide (Ammerman et al. 2012).  In general, free-tailed bats are characterised by a robust body, relatively long and narrow wings, and a free tail projecting beyond the end of the uropatagium (Srinivasulu et al. 2010).  In India, a total of 125 species of bats were reported (Ruedi et al. 2012; Srinivasulu & Srinivasulu 2012; Senacha & Dookia 2013; Saikia et al. 2017; Thong et al. 2018), which represents about a quarter of the country’s mammalian diversity. Still, information on the diversity and  distribution of different bat species from different parts of India is sporadic.  In India, the bat family Molossidae is represented by four species, namely the Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bat Chaerephon plicatus (Buchanan, 1800), Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat Otomops wroughtoni (Thomas, 1913), the European Free-tailed Bat Tadarida teniotis (Rafinesque, 1814), and the Egyptian Free-tailed bat T. aegyptiaca (É. Geoffroy, 1818) (Bates & Harrison 1997; Srinivasulu & Srinivasulu 2012).  These bats are quite widely distributed throughout the country, except for Otomops wroughtoni which is known only from five localities in Karnataka and Meghalaya (Bates & Harrison 1997; Thabah & Bates 2002; Srinivasulu & Srinivasulu 2012; Ruedi et al. 2014) and Tadarida teniotis from a single locality in West Bengal (Hill 1963) (Table 1).  Among these bats, Chaerephon plicatus and Otomops wroughtoni can be clearly distinguished from the other two species in having a membrane between the ears over the forehead (Bates & Harrison 1997; Srinivasulu et al. 2010).  Among all the four species of free-tailed bats occurring in India, Otomops wroughtoni is a very rare species and is legally protected under Schedule I of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

Odisha is one of the eastern coastal states of India and its bat fauna is represented by 25 species in seven families (Debata et al. 2016).  To our present knowledge, there is no report on the occurrence of any free-tailed bats from Odisha.  In this communication based on examination of a pup, we report the occurrence of a free-tailed bat in the state.

During a regular survey of bat roosting sites in Similipal Biosphere Reserve (SBR) in northern Odisha from September 2014 to August 2017, a pup of an unidentified bat (Image 1a,b) was spotted laying over a rock  adjoining Sitakund Waterfall in the northeastern side of SBR (Fig. 1; 21.924°N & 86.570°E; 303m).  Bat guano was present at the location where the pup was found and the screaming sound of bats from an inaccessible cliff above was audible (Image 1c).  The recorded location is situated along a riparian zone of moist deciduous forest adjoining a perennial hill stream of Sitakund Waterfall.  The sighting location also falls within the boundary of Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve.  As we did not have permission to collect any specimens from protected areas, we took close-up images using a Fujifilm Finepix HS 10 digital camera and noted the morphological characters of the pup for identification.

The pup was characterised by a free tail, wrinkled lips, and strong and stout hind feet (Image 1a,b) and thus belongs to the Molossidae family as per the descriptions provided by Bates & Harrison (1997) and Srinivasulu et al. (2010).  The species-level identity of the pup could not be confirmed as we could not collect the pup or capture any adult from the inaccessible roost for further examination (Image 1c).  As the base of the ears of the pup was connected by a membrane over the forehead (Image 1a,b), however, we narrowed down the unidentified pup to either Chaerephon plicatus or Otomops wroughtoni.

Chaerephon plicatus is widely distributed in India and was recorded from different localities in Andhra Pradesh to Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal (Bates & Harrison 1997; Srinivasulu & Srinivasulu 2012); therefore, there is a possibility of its occurrence in the forests of SBR.  On the other hand, Otomops wroughtoni is a rare species and is restricted to a few localities in Karnataka and Meghalaya (Bates & Harrison 1997; Thabah & Bates 2002; Srinivasulu & Srinivasulu 2012; Ruedi et al. 2014).  As the known distribution range for this species is quite disjunct so far, a continuous population covering the forested regions of eastern India may be possible. 

Although the present study could not confirm the species-level identification of the examined pup, we can at least confirm the occurrence of molossid bats in Odisha.  As the locality is within the Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary and Tiger Reserve  area, we did not get permission to deploy mist nets at night.  We, therefore, propose acoustic monitoring in future inventories, which can help reveal the identity of the species.  This can also aid in revising the distribution record of the proposed species in India.


Table 1.  Diversity and distribution of free-tailed bats (Family: Molossidae) in India.



Common name

Distribution in India


Chaerephon plicatus

Wrinkle-lipped Free-tailed Bat

Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal.


Otomops wroughtoni

Wroughton’s Free-tailed Bat

Karnataka and Meghalaya.


Tadarida teniotis

European Free-tailed Bat

West Bengal.


T. aegyptiaca

Egyptian Free-tailed Bat

Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, and West Bengal.


For image/ figure – click here





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