Rare specimen of new bat genus discovered by researchers from Bucknell University and Fauna & Flora International (FFI) while conducting field research with wildlife authorities in South Sudan.
Researchers have identified a new genus of bat after discovering a rare specimen in South Sudan. With wildlife personnel under the South Sudanese Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism, Bucknell Associate Professor of Biology DeeAnn Reeder and FFI Programme Officer Adrian Garside were leading a team conducting field research and pursuing conservation efforts when Reeder spotted the animal in Bangangai Game Reserve.
After returning to the United States, 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. “After careful analysis, it is clear that it doesn’t belong in the genus that it’s in right now,” 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.”
In the paper, “A new genus for a rare African vespertilionid bat: insights from South Sudan” published on 5 April in the journal ZooKeys, Reeder, along with co-authors from the Smithsonian Institution and the Islamic University in Uganda, placed this bat into a new genus — Niumbaha. The word 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.
FFI is using its extensive experience of working in conflict and post-conflict countries to assist the South Sudanese government as it re-establishes the country’s wildlife conservation sector and is also helping to rehabilitate selected protected areas through training and development of park staff and wildlife service personnel, road and infrastructure development, equipment provision, and supporting research work such as this.
The team’s research in South Sudan was made possible by a US$100,000 grant that Reeder received from the Woodtiger Fund. The private research foundation recently awarded Reeder another US$100,000 dollar grant to continue her research this May and to support FFI’s conservation programmes.
“Our discovery of this new genus of bat is an indicator of how diverse the area is and how much work remains,” Reeder added. “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.”
(Source: Bucknell University | FFI press release, 10.04.2013)