Bats of the Western Indian Ocean Islands

John O'Brien


The natural colonisation of many remote oceanic islands by bats, including those of the western Indian Ocean, has been facilitated by their unique capability among mammals for powered flight. In the western Indian Ocean region, only the Malagasy islands of Madagascar and the Comoros archipelago have been naturally colonised by non-volant mammals. Despite their greater potential for inter-island dispersal, and thus gene transfer, endemicity of Chiroptera in the western Indian Ocean islands is high. Given their vulnerability to stochastic and anthropogenic disturbances, greater focus needs to be placed on investigating the demographic and ecological history of bats on Western Indian Ocean islands to safeguard not only their future, but also the ecosystem functioning on these islands, for which they are undoubtedly such an integral part. Here, I summarise the taxonomic and life history information available on bats from Western Indian Ocean islands and highlight knowledge gaps and conservation issues that threaten the continued persistence of some species.