Thursday, September 5, 2013

New bat genus earns its stripes in South Sudan

This beautifully patterned bat, with pale yellow spots and stripes on dark black fur, took researchers in the grasslands of South Sudan by surprise. DeeAnn Reeder from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, was working in Bangangai Game Reserve with the South Sudanese Ministry of Wildlife Conservation and Tourism. One evening, observing bats on rocky grassland next to a stagnant pool, she spotted the unique beauty. "I knew the second I saw it that it was the find of a lifetime," she says. On her return to the US, Reeder found that museums already had a few specimens of the bat, which had been placed in a known bat genus found in sub-Saharan Africa. But these bats were much larger than others in that genus, with an elongated skull and the beautiful striped pattern. Reeder and her colleagues decided the specimen belongs in a genus of its own, and have called it Niumbaha superba. Niumbaha means "rare" or "unusual" in Zande, the language of the Azande people of South Sudan, who live near where the specimen was collected.

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