An international team of biologists led by Prof DeeAnn Reeder from Bucknell University, Pennsylvania, and Dr Adrian Garside from Fauna & Flora International has described a new genus of bat after discovering a rare specimen in South Sudan.
Prof Reeder spotted the animal in Bangangai Game Reserve: “my attention was immediately drawn to the bat’s strikingly beautiful and distinct pattern of spots and stripes. It was clearly a very extraordinary animal, one that I had never seen before. I knew the second I saw it that it was the find of a lifetime.”
After returning to the United States, Prof Reeder determined the bat was the same as one originally captured in nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1939 and named Glauconycteris superba, but she and colleagues did not believe that it fit with other bats in the genus Glauconycteris.
“After careful analysis, it is clear that it doesn’t belong in the genus that it’s in right now,” Prof Reeder said. “Its cranial characters, its wing characters, its size, the ears – literally everything you look at doesn’t fit. It’s so unique that we need to create a new genus.”
The team placed this bat into a new genus – Niumbaha. The generic name means ‘rare’ or ‘unusual’ in Zande, the language of the Azande people in Western Equatoria State, where the bat was captured. The bat is just the fifth specimen of its kind ever collected, and the first in South Sudan, which gained its independence in 2011.
“To me, this discovery is significant because it highlights the biological importance of South Sudan and hints that this new nation has many natural wonders yet to be discovered. South Sudan is a country with much to offer and much to protect,” said Matt Rice, Fauna & Flora International’s South Sudan country director.
The team describes the Niumbaha genus in a paper published in the journal ZooKeys.
“Our discovery of this new genus of bat is an indicator of how diverse the area is and how much work remains,” Prof Reeder said.
“Understanding and conserving biodiversity is critical in many ways. Knowing what species are present in an area allows for better management. When species are lost, ecosystem-level changes ensue. I’m convinced this area is one in which we need to continue to work.”
Bibliographic information: Reeder DM et al. 2013. A new genus for a rare African vespertilionid bat: insights from South Sudan. ZooKeys 285: 89; doi: 10.3897/zookeys.285.4892