New species of thick-thumbed bat found in the forests of Meghalaya named after state
New species of thick-thumbed bat found in the forests of Meghalaya named after state

A new species of thick-thumbed bat Glischropus meghalayanus, which has been found in the forests of Meghalaya, has been named after the state which is celebrating its 50th statehood year.

The present discovery is the first report of a thick-thumbed bat from India and also from South Asia.

Dr Uttam Saikia, a scientist from the Zoological Survey of India, along with two other European bat taxonomists Dr Gabor Csorba of Hungarian Natural History Museum and Dr Manuel Ruedi of Natural History Museum of Geneva, reported this new species from a bamboo forest near Lailad in Ri-Bhoi district, adjoining Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary.

The discovery has been published in the latest issue of prominent taxonomic journal Zootaxa.

“This genus Glischropus ( thick thumbed bat) is the first report from South Asia; the only new discovery from India in over a decade” Uttam Saikia, a scientist from ZSI, told EastMojo.

Speaking to EastMojo, Dhriti Banerjee, director of Zoological Survey of India, said, “This is a very important discovery from Meghalaya which is a biodiversity-rich state. Many more new species are waiting to be discovered.”

Commonly called Meghalaya thick-thumbed bat, the researchers noted that this bat has typical fleshy pads on the thumb and soles of feet which aid them to crawl over smooth surfaces of bamboo internodes.

Previously, four species of thick-thumbed bats were known globally and all are distributed in the Southeast Asian region.

Thick-thumbed bats of the genus Glischropus are currently composed of four recognized species from Southeast Asia, two of which were described in recent times. Among these species, G. aquilus is endemic to Sumatra, G. javanus is restricted to western Java, whereas G. bucephalus is widely distributed north to the Isthmus of Kra and G. tylopus is widespread south to this zoogeographic boundary.

Morphological examination of these specimens and comparison with all known species in this genus revealed marked differences in colouration, dental characters and bacular traits.

Dr. Saikia captured two specimens of this species from the area in the summer of 2020. For describing this novel species, the researchers compared the Meghalaya specimens to a large series of specimens of all other species under this genus held in natural history museums across the world and came to the conclusion that the Meghalaya specimens indeed represent a distinct species.

The scientists have coined the species as Glischropus meghalayanus in honour of the state from where it was discovered and also in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the statehood of Meghalaya in 2022.

Incidentally, this new species was discovered in the same locality where the same group of scientists last year also reported the disk-footed bat in India. Significantly, this is the first discovery of a new bat species from India in over a decade and highlights the immense opulence of biodiversity in Meghalaya.

“Since the locality from where the new bat has been discovered is adjacent to Nongkhyllem wildlife sanctuary having similar vegetation, the researchers speculated that this bat might be available inside the sanctuary area as well. They also noted that this is the third species of specialist bamboo bat recorded in Nongkhyllem WLS and surrounding areas and therefore the bamboo-dominated forests have significant conservation value and need to be protected stringently,” the scientists said in the paper.

“The area in and around Nongkhyllem holds three species of specialized bamboo dwelling bats, representing an extraordinary diversity of bamboo bats and also highlights the need to protect the bamboo forests,” Saikia said.

The discovery of the new species from a forest patch adjacent to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary where another specialized bamboo-dwelling species (Eudiscopus denticulus) was reported recently also underscores the importance of the area from a conservation point of view.

With this new discovery, the total number of bat species known from India stands at 131 species with Meghalaya harbouring the highest bat diversity in any Indian state with 67 species.

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