Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Fruit Bat Species

Many people have a phobia for bats, but nevertheless they are important members of their ecosystems.  They are responsible for pollination, insect control and seed transmission.  Fruit bats eat the fruit of a wide variety of shrubs and trees; seeds of these plants are distributed by the bats after digestion.  A new species was located in Papua, New Guinea and described in the scientific journal, Records of the Australian Museum.  Named after a conservationist Deborah Wright, Nyctimene wrightae, it is known as Hamamas by local people for its appearance of a perpetual smile.  Hamamas, or "Happy" has a rounder, broader jaw than most fruit bats giving it "the appearance of a constant smile", says the scientist who formally described the species [photo, with young].  It also has tube nostrils in common with other members of its genus who occupy northern Australia, Philippines and Melanesia.

Classification of the animal was problematic for Nancy Irwin, a research fellow at the University of York, UK.  There are several closely related bats in a group, referred to as the "cyclotis group", that has received different classifications over time.  Irwin says the newly described bat is member of that group.  Taxonomy, or the science of naming species, is often considered obscure, but it is a necessary step in the conservation of species that may be threatened with extinction.  Besides, Hamamas is simply happy for human recognition of its existence.