Scientists have discovered a new species of bat that has large flat adhesive suckers attached to its thumbs and hind feet.
The researchers say this is a remarkable find because the new bat belongs to a Family of bats endemic to Madagascar–and one that was previously considered to include only one rare species.
The new species, Myzopoda schliemanni, occurs only in the dry western forests of Madagascar, while the previously known species, Myzopoda aurita, occurs only in the humid eastern forests of Madagascar, according to new research recently published online in the journal Mammalian Biology: The description of a new species of Myzopoda (Myzopodidae: Chiroptera) from western Madagascar (abstract). The new species is different from the known species based on coloration, measurements and cranial characteristics.
Due to the physical similarities between M. schliemanni and M. aurita, the researchers concluded that one species probably evolved from the other, most likely after the bat dispersed across the island from east to west.
Myzopoda are often found in association with broad-leaf plants, most notably Ravenala madagascariensis or the Travelers’ Palm, a plant that is endemic to Madagascar but has been introduced to numerous tropical countries. Myzopoda are found in association with such plants because they can use their suckers to climb and adhere to the leaves’ flat, slick surface. It is thought that they roost in the leaves during the day.
Myzopoda were considered endangered because of their limited distribution and the notion that the family included only one species. The new research, however, modifies both of these ideas.
The researchers determined that Myzopoda is not endangered by the loss of the moist tropical forests because the bat appears to have adapted very well to the large broad-leaf Ravenala that are often pioneering plants in zones where the original forests have been cleared and burned.
“For now, we do not have to worry as much about the future of Myzopoda,” said Steven M. Goodman, Field Museum field biologist and lead author of the study. “We can put conservation efforts on behalf of this bat on the backburner because it is able to live in areas that have been completely degraded”
The other co-authors of the research are Félix Rakotondraparany, lecturer in the Animal Biology Department at the University of Antananarivo, and Amyot Kofoky, graduate student at the University of Mahajanga.