Flying foxes are commonly thought of as highly social mammals, yet little is known about the dynamics of their social interactions at a day roost. The aim of the present study was to examine the nature of the seasonal activities of territoriality and courtship amongst wild flying foxes in Australia. Focal observations were conducted at two permanent roosts of black flying foxes Pteropus alecto during periods of peak social interaction in the summers of 1999 and 2000 in urban Brisbane, Queensland. Observations of male territoriality were conducted at dawn and began eight weeks prior to the commencement of mating. The majority of defense bouts (87%) consisted of ritualised pursuit, while 13% of bouts involved physical contact expressed as either wrestling or hooking. One male with an unusually large territory took significantly longer to defend it than other males with less territory to defend. Observations of courtship revealed repetitive courtship sequences, including pre-copulatory approaches by the males, copulation attempts and grooming/resting periods. Thirty-four complete courtship sequences incorporating 135 copulation attempts were recorded over two seasons. Females actively resisted courtship approaches by males, forcing males to display a continuous determination to mate over time where determination can be considered an indicator of ‘fitness’. The courtship bout length of females with suckling young was significantly longer ( ± SE; 230.9 ± 22.16 s) than that of females unencumbered by large pups (158.5 ± 9.69 s), although the length of copulations within those courtships was not (45.6 ± 5.19 versus 36.2 ± 3.43 s).
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Vol. 4 • No. 2