Fossil of big walking bat uncovered in New Zealand

2015-06-18 09:18

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Miami - Walking bats in New Zealand have a new ancestor on their family tree, a previously unknown species that was three times bigger than its modern cousins, researchers said on Wednesday.

The study is based on fossils that may date to 16 million years ago, and were found in sediment from a prehistoric lake near Central Otago on South Island, researchers reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

The new species, Mystacina miocenalis, is related to another bat, Mystacina tuberculata, which still lives in New Zealand's old growth forests, the study said.

"Our discovery shows for the first time that Mystacina bats have been present in New Zealand for upwards of 16 million years, residing in habitats with very similar plant life and food sources," said lead author Suzanne Hand, an associate professor from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia.

Three different species of bats make up New Zealand's only native terrestrial mammals, according to the study.

Two belong to the Mystacina family, which are known as burrowing bats because they forage on the ground.

Extra bulk

The bats move on the ground using their wrists and feet.

Until now, the oldest fossil of a Mystacina bat in New Zealand was from a cave in South Island, dating to 17 500 years ago, the study said. They are believed to have arrived from Australia.

The ancient bat likely ate nectar, pollen, fruit, insects and spiders - much like its modern relatives.

But the elder is estimated to have weighed 40g, or about triple the weight of modern bats.

That extra bulk may have made it harder to hunt in the air.

"The size of bats is physically constrained by the demands of flight and echolocation, as you need to be small, quick and accurate to chase insects in the dark," said Hand.

"The unusually large size of this bat suggests it was doing less in-flight hunting and was taking heavier prey from the ground, and larger fruit than even its living cousin."

Read more on:    new zealand  |  animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.