New species of bamboo-dwelling bat found in Meghalaya

It is the first report of a thick-thumbed bat not only from India but also from South Asia.

Published - June 16, 2022 12:30 am IST - Kolkata

New species of bat Glischropus meghalayanus

New species of bat Glischropus meghalayanus | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Scientists have discovered a new species of bamboo-dwelling bat in Ri Bhoi district of Meghalaya. The species, found near the forested patch of Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, has been named Glischropus meghalayanus

The present discovery is the first report of a thick-thumbed bat not only from India but also from South Asia.

The scientists behind the discovery are Uttam Saikia from the Zoological Survey of India, who collected the specimen from the forested patch in the summer of 2020, Gabor Csorba of the Hungarian Natural History Museum and Manuel Ruedi of the Natural History Museum of Geneva. Thick-thumbed bats of the genus Glischropus are currently composed of four recognised species from Southeast Asia. The newly discovered species is small in size and has a dark brown colour with sulphur yellow belly.

“Two recently collected Glischropus specimens from Meghalaya State in northeastern India extend the known distribution range of the genus westward into South Asia by ca. (approximately) 1,000 km. Morphological examination of these specimens and comparison with all known species in this genus revealed marked differences in colouration, dental characters and bacular traits. We therefore describe the Meghalaya specimens as a new species,” the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Zootaxa said. The paper titled ‘Out of Southeast Asia: A new species of thick-thumbed bat (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae: Glischropus) from Meghalaya, north-eastern India’ was published on June 15.

 Mr. Saikia said that from the same forested patches outside Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary, he found another species of disk-footed bat Eudiscopus denticulus which was a new record in India. 

“In the past few years we have reported three bamboo-dwelling bats from the area which highlight the ecological significance of the region. Since the bamboo forest around the wildlife sanctuary has a rich bio-diversity there should be attempts to conserve it,” he added.

Bamboo-dwelling bats are a particular kind of bats living in the internodes of bamboos with specialised morphological characters that help them to adopt to the life inside a bamboo.

With this new discovery, the total number of bat species known from India stands at 131. Meghalaya, a State with a small geographical area, harbours the highest bat diversity in the country with 67 species, which is about 51% of total bat species in the country.

Dhriti Banerjee, Director of the ZSI, said that Meghalaya, because of its unique terrain, vegetation and climate condition, was a haven for both flora and fauna.

She pointed out that the unique caves in the northeastern State provided roosting opportunities for a large number of bats. Mr. Saikia also pointed out that there were a number of cave-dwelling bats species from Meghalaya, the most common being Horseshoe bat and Leaf-nosed bats.

The nomenclature of the newly discovered species Glischropus meghalayanus celebrates the State of Meghalaya, where the new species was found. A few of these bat species from Meghalaya are endemic to the region. The ZSI Director added that the northeastern States were less explored and more studies would lead to many more such discoveries.

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