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No. 93: May-Jun 1994

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Lactating Male Bats

The scene is a Malaysian forest, where scientists are sampling canopy wildlife with nets:

"When the researchers captured a group of bats in a wide-ranging effort to survey animals that inhabit the Malaysian canopy, they were dumbfounded to see that the eight adult male Dyaks [a species of fruit bat] in the net all had visibly swollen breasts that produced milk upon being gently squeezed."

No other wild male mammals are known to give milk, although inbred domestic male goats and sheep will -- rarely -- lactate. It is not known if the male bats actually nurse the young.

(Angier, Natalie; New York Times, February 24, 1994. Cr. J. Covey. Also: Francis, Charles M., et al; "Lactation in Male Fruit Bats," Nature, 367:691, 1994. Fackelmann, K.A.; Science News, 145:148, 1994.)

Comment. In their book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, G.M. Gould and W.L. Pyle record several cases of human males lactating and even suckling infants.

From Science Frontiers #93, MAY-JUN 1994. 1994-2000 William R. Corliss