Scientists have discovered an incredible species of orange and black bat while working in the caves and mining tunnels of the Nimba Mountains in Guinea, West Africa,
The bat was first noticed, by a team of scientists, led by the American Museum of Natural History, and the organisation Bat Conservation International in 2018, during field surveys to determine the species residing in the mountains’ old mining tunnels, called adits, and what months of year.
The scientists consider the new species is likely to be critically endangered, not because it has only been discovered in this one mountain range but it seems a majority of its territory is in the adits, which are in various states of destruction and will soon disappear from the face of earth.
Winifred Frick, chief scientist at Bat Conservation International and an associate research professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz said, ” In an age of extinction, a discovery like this offers a glimmer of hope. It’s a spectacular animal. It has this bright- orange fur, and because it was so distinct, that led us to realise it was not described before.”
She added that discovering a new mammal was rare. That had been a dream of hers since she was a child.
Dr Frick and her colleagues were working along with a local mining company, Société des Mines de Fer de Guinée (SMFG), when they accidently came upon this new species.
The team had been carrying out field surveys in the abandoned mine tunnels with a particular focus in finding out about another species of bat called Lamotte’s roundleaf bat (Hipposideros lamottei) which is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature(IUCN) as critically endangered and has only ever been recorded to be seen in the Nimba Mountains.
While surveying for this bat, the researchers found something even weirder – a bat that looked nothing like Lamotte’s roundleaf bat and it didn’t have any similarities to the descriptions of any other species that they knew were found in the area.
Later the same night, they called American Museum of Natural History curator Nancy Simmons, a bat expert, for help identifying the peculiar species. “As soon as I looked at it, I agreed that it was something new,” said Dr Simmons, the lead author of the paper and Bat Conservation International board member. “Then began the long path of documentation and gathering all the data needed to show that it’s indeed unlike any other known species.”
The team collected enormous arrays of data on the bat, including morphological – it’s form; morphometric – size and shape; the way it uses echolocation, and they analyzed data from its genetics, including comparative data from collections already available at the American Museum of Natural History, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum.
The new bat was named as Myotis nimbaensis, meaning “from Nimba”, in recognition of the mountain range where it was discovered. the Nimba Mountains also regarded as a chain of “African sky islands”, have peaks ranging between 1,600-1,750 metres (about 1 mile) above sea level and are surrounded by very different lowland habitats. The highly unusual topography means they provide home to exceptionally different kind of biodiversity, including bats.
“In addition to the Lamotte’s roundleaf bat, it’s possible Myotis nimbaensis could be the second bat species found only in this particular mountain range,” said Jon Flanders, Bat Conservation International’s director of endangered species interventions.
The researchers said that although little is known yet about the population and range of Myotis nimbaensis, efforts like that would likely help it as well”. The species is described for the very first time in the journal, American Museum Novitates.