In 2018, scientists set out on an expedition to survey the habitat of an endangered bat species in the West African country of Guinea. One night, a trap turned up something unusual: a new species of bat with a fiery orange body strikingly juxtaposed with black wings. There are more than 1,400 species of bats, and every year more than 20 join the list. Mostly, though, these are lab-based discoveries that involve genetically parsing out cryptic species, or ones that look exactly (or almost exactly) like each other and were formerly thought to be the same. Just happening upon a new bat species in nature is something entirely different. The new orangutan-hued bat, Myotis nimbaensis, lives in Guinea’s Nimba Mountains, a verdant series of mile-high peaks rich in biodiversity. Now that the new species confirmation is official, the next step is to learn about M. nimbaensis’ ecology. The researchers plan to use M. nimbaensis’ echolocation calls that they recorded in the field to help identify the species in acoustic monitoring that they are already carrying out in the area. From there, they can narrow down the bat’s habitat preferences, which hopefully will lead to protections.
SOURCE: THE NEW YORK TIMES