Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bizarre Walking Bat Has Ancient Heritage

Date:
July 29, 2009
Source:
University of New South Wales
Summary:
A bizarre New Zealand bat that is as much at home walking four-legged on the ground as winging through the air had an Australian ancestor 20 million years ago with the same rare ability, a new study has found. The discovery overturns a long-held held view that the agile walking and climbing skills of the lesser short-tailed bat evolved in the absence of any ground-dwelling mammal competitors or predators.

Lesser short-tailed bat.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of New South Wales

A bizarre New Zealand bat that is as much at home walking four-legged on the ground as winging through the air had an Australian ancestor 20 million years ago with the same rare ability, a new study has found.

The discovery overturns a long-held held view that the agile walking and climbing skills of the lesser short-tailed bat - Mystacina tuberculata – evolved in the absence of any ground-dwelling mammal competitors or predators, says an international team of researchers led by Dr Suzanne Hand, a bat expert at the University of New South Wales, Sydney.

Along with the American common vampire bat - Desmodus rotundus - the NZ bat is one of only two of 1,100 bat species worldwide that has a true four-legged walking gait when manoeuvring on the ground.

It uses its wings as forelegs. Its thumb and toe claws have a unique extra talon for extra grip, plus a system of adhesive, gecko-like grooves in the soft, deeply wrinkled soles of its feet,

The team has found that other special muscle and bone adaptations were also present in one of its extinct rainforest-dwelling Australian ancestors, fossils of which have been found at the rich Riversleigh World Heritage Fossil Site in north-west Queensland, it says in a report published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology.

"The lesser short-tailed bat seems to be the sole survivor of an ancient Australian lineage now found only in New Zealand," says Dr Hand. "This study shows that, contrary to existing hypotheses, bats are not overwhelmingly absent from the ground because of competition from, or predation by, other mammals.

"Unlike for birds, there is currently no evidence that any bat has evolved a reduced capacity for flight as a result of isolation on islands.

"Rather, it would seem that walking is rare in bats because it has advantages for them only in special circumstances. Competition with other mammals and pressure from terrestrial predators does not deter modern vampire bats from walking. Likewise, the rich rainforest environment in which the ancestors of the mystacinid bats evolved in ancient Australia was teeming with ground-based competitors and predators."

A small secretive creature with velvety fur, the lesser short-tailed bat is New Zealand's only terrestrial mammal: it spends long periods on the ground in heavily forested areas, hunting insects and seeking out fruit, nectar and pollen.

It also appears to have evolved a special relationship as a pollinator for the Hades flower, or woodrose, a parasitic plant that produces nectar from blooms near ground level at the base of tree trunks.

Among other unusual traits, the bat is thought to use its teeth and claws to excavate roosting burrows and males appear to compete for mates by gathering for singing competitions in their breeding season.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of New South Wales. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Suzanne J Hand et al. Bats that walk: a new evolutionary hypothesis for the terrestrial behaviour of New Zealand's endemic mystacinids. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 20 July 2009; 9:169 DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-9-169

Cite This Page:

University of New South Wales. "Bizarre Walking Bat Has Ancient Heritage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729095054.htm>.
University of New South Wales. (2009, July 29). Bizarre Walking Bat Has Ancient Heritage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729095054.htm
University of New South Wales. "Bizarre Walking Bat Has Ancient Heritage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090729095054.htm (accessed July 22, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

A Centuries' Old British Tradition Is Far from a Swan Song

AFP (July 19, 2014) As if it weren't enough that the Queen is the Sovereign of the UK and 15 other Commonwealth realms, she is also the owner of all Britain's unmarked swans. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins