Golden bat in Bolivia classified as a new species

The bat's distinctive golden fur set it apart from other South American bats

Kashmira Gander
Monday 04 August 2014 22:12
A myotis midastactus bat, which was recently classified as a new species
A myotis midastactus bat, which was recently classified as a new species

Scientists have classified a Bolivian bat as a new species, and taken inspiration from its short, woolly golden-yellow fur to name it after King Midas.

The bat was previously identified as a Myotis simus – a type of mouse-eared bat which lives in South America.

Scientists have now re-named it Myotis midastactus, after King Midas and his golden touch. After examining 27 bat specimens in museums in the US and Brazil, experts realised that the creature, which lives in the Bolivian Savannah, was an entirely different species.

In addition, scientists from Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, US, suggested that the Myotis simus does not live in Bolivia, but is found in Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru - further separating the two species.

In an study published in the 'Journal of Mammalogy', scientists describe how differences in the golden animal’s fur colour, as well as differences to its cranium “unquestionably distinguish” the bat from all other neotropical Myotis.

Like other bats, it survives on small insects, and roosts during the day in holes in the ground, hollow trees and under thatched roofs.

Greater mouse-eared bats, or Myotis myotis - family members of the newly-specified Myotis midastactus (Getty)

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The findings followed a 2011 paper by Dr Ricardo Moratelli of the Fundacao Oswaldo Cruz, who took part in the newly published study.

Dr Moratelli had suggested that bats from Bolivia were different to others inhabiting the Amazonian basin.

He admitted to BBC News that the team had attempted to analyse living bats rather than museum species, but after two months they were still unable to locate a golden bat.

He added: "I can confidently say that many new species from different zoological groups are in museum cabinets around the world, awaiting recognition and formal description.

"Discovering new species is the most exciting part of my research, and in some cases describing a new species can be the first step to preserve others."

Myotis midastactus is currently the fifth new species of bat that Dr Moratelli has classified, in addition to the small Myotis diminutus found in the Ecuadorian Andes; Myotis lavali from north-eastern Brazil, Myotis izecksohni found in Atlantic forest in southern Brazil, and Myotis handleyi from the mountains of northern Venezuela.

These discoveries are part of a larger project which aims to find out more about mouse-eared bats living in the neotropical ecozone.

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