African Monkeys Documented Eating Bats in New Study

Posted on May 24, 2016

Monkey eating bat carcass

African monkeys have been documented eating bats in a new study. Monkeys have been observed eating bats before but reports have been rare. The study from Florida Atlantic University (FAU) has implications for animal-human disease transmission.

Bats have been linked to zoonotic diseases such as Ebola, Marburg and Henipa viruses as well as bacteria and parasites that can be spread between animals and humans. Researchers in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University initiated a study of Cercopithecus predation on bats after observing monkeys preying on two different bat species in Gombe National Park in Tanzania. The researchers say they are the first to document monkeys consuming bats with photos and video.

Kate Detwiler, Ph.D., co-author of the study and an assistant professor in FAU’s Department of Anthropology, says in a statement, "Our study found that Cercopithecus monkeys opportunistically preyed on bats not only in Gombe, but also in the Kakamega Forest in Kenya. The behavior that we observed and the persistence of these monkeys to capture their prey indicate that bats are desirable items in their food repertoire."

The monkeys were observed having prolonged contact with the bat carcass. The monkeys spent between 10 minutes to just a little over an hour consuming a single bat. In one incident the monkey ate the entire bat, including all the bat bones. The researchers say the roosting bats made for easy prey. The monkeys could simply grab the bats while they were sleeping. The monkeys feeding on bats was observed near human-modified or forest edge habitats.

The study, "Bat Predation by Cercopithecus Monkeys: Implications for Zoonotic Disease Transmission," was published here in the journal, EcoHealth.

Photo: Felix Angwella / Gombe Hybrid Monkey Project