Lesson Plan

What is a Fruit Bat?

A fruit bat sleeping upside down.

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Grade Level:
Lower Elementary: Pre-Kindergarten through Second Grade
Subject:
Science
Lesson Duration:
30 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
K.L.1.b, K.L.5.a, K.L.6, 2.L.6
State Standards:
State: American Samoa     
Subject: Science  
Grade Level: Grade K-1
State Standards: Standard 7
Thinking Skills:
Remembering: Recalling or recognizing information ideas, and principles. Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts.

Objective

Students will be able to articulate what a fruit bat is, identify and explain the fruit bat’s role in the American Samoan tropical rainforest ecosystem, and the National Park of American Samoa’s role in protecting fruit bats.

Background

Large flying foxes, also known as fruit bats, are one of the more unusual animals in American Samoa, especially for visitors from areas where bats are small and rarely seen. Three species inhabit our islands – two large fruit bats (Pteropus samoensisP. tonganus) and a small insect-eating bat (Emballonura semicaudata). These three are the only native mammals in the Samoan islands.

The two flying foxes are especially distinctive: they are renowned for being large (with a wing span up to 3 feet wide) and active both day and night. Pteropus samoensis (pe'a vao) is commonly called the Samoan flying fox. The other flying fox, Pteropus tonganus (pe'a fanua), has several common names such as the Insular, White-naped, White-necked or Tongan fruit bat. In American Samoa, flying foxes can be seen flying, soaring, feeding, or just hanging in trees. Individuals of the two species can seem to overlap in size (adults weigh 300-600 grams). When they consume fruits with small seeds, some seeds that get swallowed do not get digested but are carried and deposited away from the tree source. These seeds grow and become the lush green rainforest that covers American Samoa. They are also considered pollinators as they transfer pollen when they fly from tree to tree consuming nectar or fruits.

During the daytime, pe'a fanua form large roosting groups or colonies of hundreds to thousands of bats. These colonies are generally organized according to their reproductive status and may be composed of bachelor males, clusters of females defended by an adult male (suggesting a harem mating system), or groups of females and their young. In any case, individuals appear to be relatively “faithful” to their roosts, usually returning to their respective colonies following foraging flights.

But the pe'a vao does not do this. Instead, these bats usually roost singly on branches, or as pairs of males and females (suggesting a monogamous mating system), or as a female with its young. When roosting, pe'a vao males tend to hang from exposed or dead branches of trees on ridge tops while females roost in more covered positions on forest slopes.

The care and energy that both bat species put into their young is remarkable. Pregnancy lasts approximately 5 months in both species, and once the young are born, it takes at least another 3 months before they are weaned. Even after they are capable of flight, the young continue to receive parental care, perhaps until they reach adult size or become reproductively active themselves. We know this from observations of pairs of individuals seen to alight independently on the same tree and subsequently come together with one individual (presumably the juvenile) being wrapped up in the other's wings as they settle down to roost. Sightings of pregnant females and individuals carrying young in flight indicate that pe'a vao give birth mostly between April and June. Pe'a fanua births appear to occur year-round but are more common in January and June to August.

Although their name indicates that they are fruit-eaters, both species also eat nectar, pollen, leaves, and sap. They tend to consume only the “juice” of fruits and leaves. To do this, a bat will carefully chew on food (usually eating around large seeds), press the pulp against the roof of its mouth with its tongue, squeeze and suck in the juice, then spit out most of the pulp in pellets called “ejecta.” These ejecta are especially abundant under breadfruit trees ('ulu) where the bats have been feeding overnight. Among the splatter of mushy bits of the fruit, you can find these pellets of drier material that sometimes show tooth and palatal (roof of the mouth) impressions, much like a dental cast produced at a dentist’s clinic.

It may bother us that flying foxes eat some of the fruit that we grow for ourselves, but these bats are tireless workers that help maintain the health of our rainforest, and they are fun to watch.

Preparation

Teachers should bring brown paper lunch bags and print copies of the bat puppet parts so students can make their own bat puppets, and have one that is already pre-made as an example. They should also make copies of the assessment handout for each student. 

Materials

Download Fruit Bat puppet

Lesson Hook/Preview

Ask students: What are two things you know about bats?

Procedure

1. The teacher will ask: What is the role of fruit bats in nature?

2. Ask:  Has anyone seen a fruit bat? If yes, when and where did you see it? If not, what do you think it is? 

3. Explain: fruit bats are American Samoa’s only native mammal. They do not suck people’s blood but instead feed on fruits, nectar, and seeds of trees.

4. Say: fruit bats inhabit the tropical rainforest ecosystem where they sleep, feed, and fly around.

5. Ask: Have you ever spoken to a fruit bat? If not, do you want to meet one? 

6. Have students gather around and introduce them to Pua (pu-‘ah) the fruit bat (puppet). Have Pua the fruit bat share a little about himself and what it’s like to be a fruit bat in American Samoa. Where do they like to roost? What do they like to eat? Can they see at night? Explain how humans are threatening the survival of the fruit bat. To illustrate the life of Pua the fruit bat, show students images of fruit bats hanging out in the native rainforest: https://www.nps.gov/npsa/naturescience/fruit-bats.htm.

7. Provide students with scissors, glue, crayons and/or markers and have them color and create their fruit bat puppets. When they have finished, have them write their name at the top. Ask for a volunteer to share their fruit bat coloring to the class. Before the next activity, ask students to put away their fruit bat coloring and return the crayons and/or markers they used.

8. Gather the students into a circle and ask them to pay attention while you and Pua the fruit bat teach them the fruit bat song. Have them repeat every verse. Write the words on the board or use a power point program for them to see and repeat the words. Teach the actions that go with the words after they successfully recite the words of the song.

Pe’a, o au o le pe’a x2 (Fruit bat, I am a fruit bat.)
O pe’a e lele i le po    (Fruit bats fly at night.)

Pe’a, o au o le pe’a x2 (Fruit bat, I am a fruit bat.)
O pe’a e ai i fua o laau (Fruit bats eat fruits.)

Pe’a, o au o le pe’a x2 (Fruit bat, I am a fruit bat.)
O pe’a e nofo i le vao (Fruit bats live in a tropical rainforest.)

Pe’a, o au o le pe’a x2 (Fruit bats, I am a fruit bat.)
Pe’a, o oe o le pe’a x2 (Fruit bats, you are a fruit bat.)

(Yawns!) Ua fia moe o pe’a! (Sleepy fruit bat!)

9. Have a class discussion about what fruit bats are and their importance to American Samoa’s ecosystem. Include the bat puppet to engage students. Ask the following questions: What are three facts about fruit bats that you learned? (i.e., nocturnal, eat fruits, they can fly, etc.) In what ways are we threatening the survival of Pua the fruit bat? (Responses will vary but may include destroying of fruit bat habitats, disturbing roosts, hunting fruit bats, harming fruit bats by throwing rocks at them, etc.)

Vocabulary

Fruit bats (Family Pteropodidae) are flying mammals that live in dense forests in Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia. There are about 166 species of fruit bats. Fruit bats are sometimes known as flying foxes. These bats live in huge colonies, known as "camps." These nocturnal (most active at night) animals rest during the day while hanging upside down from their feet.

Assessment Materials

Fruit Bat Assessment

The assessment gives students the opportunity to summarize the fruit bat’s role and it’s relationship with its surrounding environment.

Fruit bat - assessment

Download Assessment

Rubric/Answer Key

Fruit Bat Assessment

Measures student responses against correct responses.

fruit bat - answer key

Download Rubric/Answer Key

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Last updated: May 21, 2015