Scientists on Wednesday announced the discovery of a new species of bat in Africa that has a stunning mix of fiery orange and black, according to reports.
A new Halloween-colored bat, Myotis nimbaensis, was found after scientists embarked on an expedition in 2018 to investigate the habitat of an endangered bat species in the West African country of Guinea, the New York Times reported.
“It was in a way a life goal, which I never thought would happen,” said Dr. Jon Flanders, director of endangered species interventions at Bat Conservation International, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas. “Every species is important, but you’re attracted to the interesting-looking ones, and this one is really spectacular.”
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However, it took approximately two years to establish that Myotis nimbaensis was a new species. (The bat was named after Guinea’s Nimba Mountain, where it was discovered.) Confirmation and details of the find were published Wednesday in the American Museum Novitates magazine.
“When I first saw it, I thought it was a common species,” said Dr. Eric Bakwo Fils, a bat expert at the University of Maroua in Cameroon.
Scientists said they found a pumpkin and orange bat mixed with the usual brown in their trap, originally believing it to be unusually colored.
Dr. Flanders and Dr. Bakwo Fils spent that night trying to solve the mystery.
“The next morning I met Eric and almost at the same time we said,‘ This is a new species, ’” Dr. Flanders said.
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Experts say about 20 new species of bats are found each year, according to the Washington Post. Although, none typically have the striking appearance of Myotis nimbaensis.
“The color is simply phenomenal,” Flanders told the paper. “His wings are black with these orange toes. There aren’t a lot of orange bats in the world. I don’t work with so many brightly colored bats. It’s definitely unusual for me.”
After the discovery, the researchers – by genetic analysis – found that Myotis nimbaensis was at least five percent different from its closest relative.
The next step is to learn about the ecology of the species, so they can determine how best to protect it, Flanders said, according to the New York Times. Dr. Bakwo Fils added that he hopes the unique discovery and the buzz around it will serve as a catalyst for better bat protection in the region.
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“This discovery is very important in terms of bat biodiversity in West Africa, because even if bats are a very important component of our ecosystems, they are rarely paid attention to,” he said.