Big, New Pointy-Nosed Bat Found

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A new species of bat with a distinctive nose and impressive teeth has been documented. The bat, named Micronycteris garifuna, hails from St. Vincent island in the Caribbean and is described in the journal Mammalian Biology.

The bat's name honors the Garifuna people who live on the island. Their culture is a mix of Carib, Arawak and West African ancestry.

When Peter Larsen, a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Texas Tech University, and colleague Lizette Siles first became aware of the bat, they thought it was already on the science record books. The bat was caught during an expedition to the island in 2005-2006.

The bat's "size was the first clue (that this was a new species),” Siles said. “It’s a very large bat in body and skull size compared to its mainland counterparts. Also it differs in specific skull and teeth characteristics. The lower incisors are a lot larger than they are wide. That’s completely different than the one he (Larsen) thought it was. At the base of the skull where the ear is, there are supposed to be two wells. Those wells are very shallow. On the mainland species, they’re very deep.”

Island animals, in general, are unique. Due to isolation and other factors, some grow larger than their mainland relatives, while others evolve into smaller species. Researchers term the phenomenon behind this the "island rule."

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