As furry, mammalian denizens of the sky, bats often do have a vaguely canine-esque appearance (hence the term “flying fox”). But this oddly adorable fruit bat bears more than just a passing resemblance.
He looks just like a dog with wings.
Nicolas Nesi, a postdoctoral research associate at Queen Mary University of London, studies the evolution of fruit bats. In 2009, while working on his PhD thesis in the lowlands of West Africa, Nesi came across an individual from this striking species — a Buettikofer’s epauletted bat — one of the most impressive he had seen. This is just how nature made them.
“He looks to have a dog head because this is an adult male specimen,” Nesi told The Dodo. “Adult males have a large snout with large lips (that look like a dog’s).”
Males from this species also have epaulettes of long white hair around scent glands on their shoulders, which can be puffed out or retracted, and are used to attract potential mates. It also adds to the fluffy dog-like look. So much so, in fact, people often have a hard time believing this bat is really real.
“I work with this species, so I know what to expect,” Nesi said. “[But] I can understand how people can be surprised and say that it is Photoshopped.”
While these animals are quite remarkable to look at, they are more than just a cute face. Like all bat species, Buettikofer’s epauletted bats play an integral role in keeping their ecosystems in balance.
“Fruit bats are very important because by eating fruit they spread seeds, and in doing so, contribute to the regeneration of forests,” Nesi said. “Also, fruit bats are, like insect and bird [species], very important pollinators in tropical and desert environments.”
In other words, like dogs tend to be, this bat is a very good boy, too.