A New Species of Bat Has Been Uncovered
By: Raquel Zuniga
Great news, batty friends! An international team of scientists led by UNSW Sydney has uncovered fossilized remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago. It has been named Vulcanops jennyworthyae, after team member Jenny Worthy who found the bat fossils, and after Vulcan, the mythological Roman god of fire and volcanoes, in reference to New Zealand's tectonic nature.
This is the first new bat genus that has been added to New Zealand’s fauna, animals of a particular region, in more than 150 years.
The teeth and bones of Vulcanops jennyworthyae are about three times the size of an average bat today. This newly discovered bat is estimated to weigh about 40 grams, making it the biggest burrowing bat known to date.
Sue Hand, a scientist for this project and professor at UNSW, said, "However, Vulcanops's specialized teeth and large size suggest it had a different diet, capable of eating even more plant food as well as small vertebrates—a diet more like some of its South American cousins. We don't see this in Australasian bats today," to www.sciencedaily.com.
Burrowing bats are a different kind of bat because not only do they fly, but they can also walk on all fours. Today burrowing bats are only found in New Zealand but they once lived in Australia too. "Burrowing bats are more closely related to bats living in South America than to others in the southwest Pacific. They are related to vampire bats, ghost-faced bats, fishing and frog-eating bats, and nectar-feeding bats, and belong to a bat superfamily that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and possibly Antarctica," Hand also said to www.sciencedaily.com.
The findings of Vulcanops provides insight into the previous knowledge of the diversity of Australian bats. Its lineage became extinct sometime after the early Miocene. These include crocodiles, terrestrial turtles, flamingo-like palaelodids, swiftlets, several pigeon, parrot and shorebird lineages and non-flying mammals. Most of these were probably warm-adapted species. After the middle Miocene, global climate change brought colder and drier conditions to New Zealand, with significant changes to vegetation and environments.
Read the published journal at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-18403-w
Further reading on this new species: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/01/180110101003.htm and