Fossil of giant burrowing bat found in New Zealand

Mindy Sparks
January 11, 2018

But their giant ancestors, which were three times the size of the average bat today, could count on specialized teeth that allowed him to devour a richer variety of plants and even small vertebrates, a diet that is now only followed by its South American cousins. The fossilized remains of the 19 million year old burrowing bat were found in New Zealand. It has been tagged as one of the largest species of burrowing bats known to mankind. The new fossil find is an ancient relative.

The most unbelievable factor related to this discovery is the addition of the genus, Vulcanops, which is the first of its kind to find a place in the list of bats found in Newland in a time period of 150 years.

Bones from a prehistoric burrowing bat, three times the size of those now living in New Zealand, has been found in Central Otago.

Burrowing bats are only found now in New Zealand, but they once also lived in Australia.

The study, led by University of New South Wales and other researchers from Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S., is [ published in the journal] Scientific Reports.

It belonged to "a bat super-family that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and possibly Antarctica", according to study author Sue Hand, from the University of New South Wales.

Around 50 million years ago, the landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and Antarctica were connected as the last vestiges of the southern supercontinent Gondwana.

With subsequent fragmentation of Gondwana, cooling climates and the growth of ice-sheets in Antarctica, Australasia's burrowing bats became isolated from their South American relatives. The findings related to the fossilized remains of the bat were jotted down in the journal Scientific Reports.

Fossil of giant burrowing bat found in New Zealand
Fossil of giant burrowing bat found in New Zealand

The bat fossils are now located in New South Wales, but the bones and teeth will be returned to New Zealand and shared between Canterbury Museum and Te Papa.

"The fossils of this spectacular bat and several others in the St Bathans Fauna show that the prehistoric aviary that was New Zealand also included a surprising diversity of furry critters alongside the birds", said study co-author, Associate Professor Trevor Worthy of Flinders University. They eat insects and other invertebrates such as weta and spiders, which they catch on the wing or chase by foot.

'And they also regularly consume fruit, flowers and nectar, ' says Professor Hand, who is Director of the PANGEA Research Centre at UNSW. The bats used their specialized set of very 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.

If it was anything like today's burrowing bats, Vulcanops j. must have had a broad diet comprising of both plants and animals.

An artist's impression of a New Zealand burrowing bat.

This diverse fauna lived in or around a 5600-square-km prehistoric Lake Manuherikia that once covered much of the Maniototo region of the South Island.

During that time, temperatures in New Zealand were warmer than today.

Today, New Zealand has only two bat species - the only native land mammals, the rest having been brought here in the past 800 years.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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