Research

Giant, ancient bat discovered in New Zealand could walk on all fours

Giant, ancient bat discovered in New Zealand could walk on all fours

Behind the discovery of the bat is an global team of researchers who published their findings in Scientific Reports.

This, massive burrowing bat is estimated to have lived between 16- and 19 million years ago. Scientists said that this extinct burrowing bat, which had an estimated weight of about 40 grams, was the biggest of its kind ever discovered.

Burrowing bats are now only found in New Zealand, but once also lived in Australia. But some of them, such as the appropriately named burrowing bat, can display a relatively out-of-character behavior: walking on all fours.

Burrowing bats which are unique to New Zealand, not only fly but scurry about on all fours while foraging for animal and plant food.

Study co-author Professor Paul Scofield, from Canterbury Museum, said these bats, along with land turtles and crocodiles, show that major groups of animals have been lost from New Zealand.

"[Its] specialised teeth and large size suggest it had a different diet, capable of eating even more plant food as well as small vertebrates - more like some of its South American cousins", said study author Professor Sue Hand of the University of New South Wales.

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The possibility of this prehistoric bat living in the Antarctic region arrives from the fact that about 50 million years prior to the separation of the continents, Antarctica was a part of Gondwana. They eat insects and other invertebrates such as weta and spiders, which they catch on the wing or chase by foot.

Scientists have discovered fossils of a huge bat located close to a historic mining town, St. Bathans in New Zealand's South Island. The bats used their specialized set of big teeth to consume both plant material as well as smaller version of vertebrates which is strikingly similar to its modern cousins in South America.

"They are related to vampire bats, ghost-faced bats, fishing and frog-eating bats, and nectar-feeding bats, and belong to a bat superfamily that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and possibly Antarctica".

During that time, temperatures in New Zealand were warmer than today. The same is also a reference to a hotel with historical importance which is located near the excavation site of St. Bathans.

Today, only two bat species comprise the entire native land mammal fauna in New Zealand. It probably went extinct after the early Miocene (a geologic epoch that started about 23 million years ago and ended about 5.33 million years ago), like other extinct species found in the same location. All other land mammals in the country have been introduced by humans over the past 800 years. Their work is published today in Scientific Reports.


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