(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists working in West African Guinea have discovered a new species of bats with orange fur. A rare discovery was made during field research in the isolated Nimba mountain range.
The find was made in early 2018 when scientists were conducting research on the conservation of bat populations in the exceptionally biodiverse Nimba Mountains, a region of West Africa that spans the borders of Guinea, Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire. The researchers focused their attention on a series of old mining caves that had long been inhabited by bats.
During the study, scientists discovered a striking orange bat. The team initially suggested that it should be an iteration of a unique color for the common species they studied, but further research showed that this bat was markedly different.
Nancy Simmons, an expert on bat taxonomy and curator of the American Museum of Natural History, looked at the photographs and immediately realized that researchers had stumbled upon a new species of bats.
“As soon as I looked at the photo, I agreed that this was something new,” Simmons says. “Then began the long journey of documenting and collecting all the data needed to show that it truly is unlike any other known species.”
After extensive work, the researchers described the species in a new study published in the American Museum Novitiates. The bat belongs to the genus Myotis (bat) and the location of its discovery led to the species name Myotis nimbaensis.
“In an era of extinction, this discovery is encouraging,” explains Winifred Frick of the University of California, Santa Cruz. “This is an impressive animal. It has a bright orange fur, and because it was so distinct, it became clear that it had not been previously described. The discovery of a new mammal is rare. This has been my childhood dream.”
While the discovery of a new mammalian species is not uncommon in itself, most of the discoveries of new species come from sophisticated laboratory genetic studies. Simmons says discovering a new species like this during field research is an unusual event.
“This situation where experienced researchers went out into the field, caught the animal, took it in their hands and said, ‘We cannot identify this,’ is much more unusual,” Simmons said.
Researchers speculate that this particular bat species can only be found in this very specific part of the Nimba Mountains. Work is ongoing to understand how rare this bat is and what role it plays in the wider local ecosystem.
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