At only five grams a newly-discovered dwarf bat from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique has now become Africa's smallest horseshoe bat.
According to an article published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society recently, Rinolophus gorongosae appears to occur only within the borders of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique and possibly also on nearby Mount Inago.
A team of researchers, led by Professor Peter Taylor from the University of Venda, made this discovery after a number of bats were captured from two caves in Mozambique. The fieldwork was conducted by Dr Samantha Stoffberg, from the DST/NRF Centre of Excellence for Invasion Biology at Stellenbosch University, together with Dr Steven Goodman from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, and Professor Corrie Schoeman from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
Using modern techniques such as molecular DNA analysis and morphological studies of the skull, noseleaf and penis bone, it was established that while the dwarf bat was most similar in appearance to Swinny's bat from South Africa, it was quite distinct in terms of its call frequency, DNA composition and a range of other morphological characteristics. And seeing that this newly-discovered dwarf bat weighs only five gram, this Moszambique resident is now officially Africa's smallest horseshoe bat.
According to Taylor their findings highlight the important role of ancient mountain-forming processes in the speciation of horseshoe bats: “This has important conservation implications as it reveals that species have narrower ranges than previously thought, and current threats to mountain habitats, like burning, afforestation, alien invasions and climate change, can greatly increase the extinction risk for these vulnerable species".
The study, “Integrative taxonomy resolves three new cryptic species of small southern African horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus)", was published in the Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society on 24 April 2018.
Professor Taylor holds the South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Biodiversity and Change in the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve at the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, University of Venda. The chair is held jointly with Stellenbosch University. Taylor's research focuses on invasion biology, more specifically zoonotic diseases, patterns of colonisation and integrated pest management of invasive rat and mouse species.
On the photo, different views of the newly described Gorongosa horseshoe bat. Copyright Piotr Naskrecki.
Professor Peter Taylor
University of Venda / Stellenbosch University
Tel: + 27 83 792 4810
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