The Jamaican, Common or Mexican fruit bat (Artibeus jamaicensis) is a fruit bat native to Central and South America. Its distinctive features include the absence of an external tail and a minimal, U-shaped interfemoral membrane. The coat is gray-brown and has a mild, soap-like odor, and is slightly paler on the underside. It is known to have a nose that looks somewhat like a third ear, and it also has pointier ears than related bats. It is typically around 9 cm in length.
The Jamaican fruit-eating bat is nocturnal. Obviously, it eats fruit. This tends to include wild figs, cecropias, guavas, papayas and bananas. At times when these are hard to find, the bat is known to feed on nectar, pollen, leaves and, in rare cases, insects. During the night it often flies anywhere from 10 to 15 kilometers to find a tree to eat from. When it finds a piece of fruit to eat it collects the fruit in its mouth and flies to a dining roost. This is where it eats. It takes a bite of the fruit and presses it against the rough roof of its mouth. This squeezes out the juice of the fruit. It then spits out the flesh of the fruit. When the fruit contains big seeds, they are left uneaten. Small seeds are usually swallowed.
The major significance of this bat is that it is one of the most efficient mammals when it comes to food production. It processes its food in about 15 minutes. Because of this, small seeds that were swallowed do not have time to be digested before they are re-released. This helps distribute seeds that otherwise would have a harder time germinating.
From the late 1970s, extensive research into the ecology of the bat species has been carried out on Barro Colorado Island, a nature reserve administered by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. More than 10000 individuals of this species were caught, marked and measured in the course of the BCI bat project now led by scientist Elisabeth Kalko. Most female Jamaican fruit bats only have one young, at higher latitudes once a year, in Panama twice a year. Some have two offspring, but it is less common. The Jamaican Fruit-eating bat breeds between February and July. Usually, birth of young Jamaican fruit bats is uncommon during most of the mating season, and peaks during a short period of time annually. Life expectancy of the Jamaican Fruit-eating bat is usually between two and three years.