OU Scientist discover new species of Bat

Hyderabad: A new species of bat named Miniopetrus srinii Srini’s Bent-winged Bat has been discovered from a cave in Makuta, Kodagu district, Karnataka, India. OU scientist Dr Bhargavi Srinivasulu and Mr Aditya Srinivasulu from University of Reading, UK have described this cryptic species of bat based on multiple lines of evidence. “We collected the specimens of bats from a large subterranean cave in the dense jungles of Western Ghats in Makuta, we doubted that this could be a cryptic species of bat, which we had tentatively identified as the Small Bent-winged Bat. The Small Bent-winged Bat, Miniopterus pusillus, is reported from the Nicobar Islands, peninsular India, Nepal and Northeast India. Our research on Andaman bats have revealed that the fauna on the islands are genetically different from those on the mainland India. We doubted that the Makuta specimens and those reported from other parts of Western Ghats may be cryptic species. We conducted morphological, cranial, echolocation and genetic studies to determine the relationship between the Makuta specimens and others” shared Dr. Bhargavi Srinivasulu, a UGC-Post Doctoral Fellow at Department of Zoology, Osmania University.

Bent-winged Bats are small-sized bats that live in large colonies of few hundred individuals in caves. They have long wings, which are two and half times their body length, these long wings tend to fold over itself when the wings are folded by bats while resting, hence the name bent-winged bat. They are found in southern Europe, Africa, Madagascar, Asia, Australia, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. In India, four species of bent-winged bats are known, with the discovery of the new species the number has increased to five.

“Two species of bent-winged bats – Miniopterus phillipsi and Miniopterus pusillus are known from the Western Ghats. Our research provides evidence that the population of bent-winged bats assigned to the later species is a cryptic species, meaning they morphologically resemble already known species but differ from it genetically. Besides Makuta specimens and other populations reported from Western Ghats assigned to Small Bent-winged Bats may represent Srini’s Bent-winged Bat. The taxonomic status of Nepal and Northeast India needs to be ascertained” added Mr Aditya Srinivasulu, a PhD researcher based at University of Reading, UK. Insectivorous bats – whether forest dwelling or sharing human habitations – are ecologically important as they help in controlling insect populations that impact cash crops, agriculture, and transmit diseases both in animals and humans. Bats’ contributions to economy is immense and they are an important component of the ecosystem.

The new species has been named in honour of Prof. C. Srinivasulu, a renowned bat biologist working in Osmania University. The description of the new species has been published in the latest issue of Zootaxa – a peer-reviewed scientific mega journal for animal taxonomists.

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