New bat species discovered in Comoros

The new Comoros bat species

From DPA news agency:

Scientists discover new tiny bat species in Comoros

Posted : Thu, 25 Jun 2009 13:53:43 GMT

Geneva – Scientists have discovered a small new bat species weighing just 5 grams on the Comoros island archipelago in the Indian Ocean, the Natural History Museum in Geneva said. Manuel Ruedi, from the Geneva museum and one of the lead scientists involved in the discovery, said that while they had found the new species it was already on its way to being on an endangered list.

“Forest bats are endangered by deforestation, and in particular this one also,” explained Ruedi in a telephone interview.

The new species was named Miniopterus aelleni, in tribute to the late Villy Aellen, a former director of the museum and an expert on bats.

The bat is thought to originate from the island of Madagascar, off the African coast.

The discovery began in 2006, when a team of Australian, Madagascan, Swiss and United States scientists headed to Comoros to research bats. Upon discovering what appeared to be something new, a series of genetic and other tests were conducted.

Just recently their work was recognized and they were able to announced late Wednesday that the tiny bat was indeed a “new species, unknown until now,” said Ruedi.

Comoros, together with Swiss institutions and conservation groups, will be taking an initiative to educate school children about bats and their importance to the ecosystem and biodiversity.

Ruedi noted that in places where malaria is present, such as the Indian Ocean island, bats eat insects and thereby help prevent the spread of the disease.

It was “sad,” he said, that the newly discovered species was immediately placed in protection for fears of its extinction.

The research on bats off the African coast would go on.

“We need to know more about where and which species exist and what significance they have for local human population,” Ruedi said.

The Geneva museum noted that since 2000 about 10 new species of mammals are discovered each year, indicating that there was “still much to discover about the biodiversity that surrounds us.”

More photos are here. And here.

See also here.

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