The fossilized remains of a giant burrowing bat that walked on four limbs were found in New Zealand forest, an international team of scientists confirmed on Thursday. The bat species is said to have lived 16 to 19 million years ago on the island country.
Researchers discovered the bones and teeth of an extinct bat that is believed to have been able to burrow itself into the ground. The size of the bat was three times bigger than what we see today and it is believed to have weighed about 40 grams. Researchers claim the new burrowing bat is the first member to be added to the bat genus in New Zealand’s fauna in the last 150 years.
Burrowing bats are present on New Zealand today, although, the species was also found in Australia at some point in the past. The New Zealand species is known for its diverse diet, including insects, flowers, nectar, and fruit. Judging by the teeth of the newly discovered animal, its diet may have extended past small invertebrates and plants.
According to the study, published in the journal, Scientific Reports, the extinct animal belonged to “a bat super-family that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and possibly Antarctica”.
The new species has been dubbed Vulcanops jennyworthyae after team member, Jenny Worthy, who discovered the fossilized remains, and the Roman god of fire and volcanoes, Vulcan. This was a reference to New Zealand’s tectonic history.
Lead author of the study, Sue Hand, states that the burrowing bat species is related to vampire bats, ghost-faced bats, fishing and frog-eating bats, and nectar-feeding bats.
Hand and her team of researchers believe that the Vulcanops went extinct due to rising temperatures. The burrowing bat is said to have died off after the early Miocene period when New Zealand’s climate caused major changes to the vegetation and overall environment.
Image Source: WikipediaCommons