Bats, much better understood for their mousy looks, can have a colorful side. A new species, found when two bats were captured at a deserted miners’ tunnel in western Africa, sports showy swathes of orange fur.
The new finds “are just beautiful,” states mammalogist Nancy Simmons of the National Museum of Nature in New York City. Orange fur on the bats’ backs contrasts with black areas of wing membranes.
But that’s not what sets this bat apart: 3 other Myotis types from the continent are likewise flashy. Rather less noticeable characteristics, from details of concealed striping in its fur to its echolocation calls, peg Myotis nimbaensis as something uncommon, Simmons and associates report online January 13 in American Museum Novitates
The brand-new species was discovered the old-fashioned way– out in a remote forest at night with keen eyes studying real animals. Many of the 20 or so brand-new bat types typically called every year are found through hereditary analyses of museum specimen lookalikes. M. nimbaensis differs genetically from near kin– about as much as humans vary from gorillas.
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However when researchers collected the very first bat, near the mouth of a deserted tunnel for mineral exploration up in Guinea’s area of the Nimba Mountains, the fancy beast wasn’t certainly anything brand-new. While the majority of the more than 1,400 recognized kinds of bats are numerous tones of brown, bats occasionally worldwide can be yellow, fluffball white or coppery red. And there was the matter of the three other orange Myotis species. (How, or whether, the colors matter in animals active during the night, Simmons states, is “one of the mysteries.”)
One way to tell the new species apart is from the percentages of secret stripes on the private hairs in orange fur spots. In the freshly named bats, the bottom third of each orange hair is black. Then comes a velvety white middle third before the hair turns pumpkin at the idea.
Researchers called M. nimbaensis after its mountainous habitat. The Nimba Mountains shoot up suddenly from lowland forests, creating little “sky islands” of isolated environment on peaks, states coauthor Eric Moïse Bakwo Fils, a bat professional at the University of Maroua in Cameroon.
Bakwo Fils stresses about the fragility of sky islands and the newfound bats’ future. We depend on various little half-seen bats streaking in the dark to capture pests, pollinate plants, spread seeds and assist with other chores that keep our communities going.