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New Species of Bat Found in West Africa During Conservation Efforts

Myotis nimbaensis is a new species of bat found in the Nimba Mountains of West Africa. Credits: Fiona Reid.

Myotis nimbaensis is a new species of bat found in the Nimba Mountains of West Africa. Credits: Fiona Reid.

The dual-coloured bat features orange and black colours. It is from the Nimba Mountains in West Africa.

Bats have received a lot of negative press during the coronavirus pandemic but they are still magnificent and very important creatures for the ecosystem.

Now, there is a new addition to the already diverse world of bats with a newly discovered species named Myotis nimbaensis.

The American Museum of Natural History tweeted about this new discovery last evening. The dual-coloured bat features orange and black colours. It is from the Nimba Mountains in West Africa. The nomenclature is in honour of the Guinea mountain range, its habitat. The range is a mile above sea level.

“In an age of extinction, a discovery like this offers a glimmer of hope,” Winifred Frick, who works at the Bat Conservation International. Shee called it a “spectacular animal” owing to the strikingly orange fur. It is very distinct from any bats she has encountered which helped them realise it has never been described before.

There are structures known as adits in the region’s natural caves and mining tunnels. These are old mining tunnels from the 1970s and 80s which are now colonised by bats. There lives another important bat species known as the Lamotte’s roundleaf bat, Hipposideros lamottei. It comes under “critically endangered” category of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It was this bat that was the subject of study as experts were concerned about its survival. These mines are dilapidated and might collapse someday, robbing the bats of their residence. The study was a part of a long-term attempt to help the Nimba Mountain bat populations survive against their declining populations.

In 2018, during their research, the scientists came across a bat that wasn’t Lamotte’s roundleaf bat. They observed the features and couldn’t find a match in the records of a bat like that. Nancy Simmons, who is a renowned bat expert and curator for the Department of Mammalogy for the museum was contacted for insight.

“As soon as I looked at it, I agreed that it was something new,” she said. She is now the lead author a paper about the study which has been published in the journal American Museum Novitates.

They began to gather and document data to prove that was indeed a new species that had never been observed before. She called this journey a “long path.”

Bat characteristics like morphological, mor­phometric features, its echolocation techniques, and genetic data was analysed. They compared it with collections from other museums the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum as well as their own archival data. it was finally established that it is indeed a new species but sadly, it is also being considered as endangered.

Now, the Bat Conservation International and the mining company responsible for those original tunnels are working together. They plan to build more tunnels, but this time studier and reinforced so they can last for centuries to come. The new habitat will be away from mining projects. Hopefully, both the Lamotte’s roundleaf bat and newly discovered Myotis nimbaensis can find a new home and survive.


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