Scientists have found a rare bat in South Sudan so unique that they have decided to give it a new genus.
Biologist DeeAnn Reeder of Bucknell University found the back after being in the field about two weeks. She knew as soon as she held it in her hand that it was the “catch of a lifetime.”
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“I was just ecstatic,” Reeder told Business Insider. “Those moments in your life just come up so rarely.”
The animal was seen for the first (and last) time 1939, but the bat’s unique stripes led the discovering scientist to misidentify it as a member of the Glauconycteris genus.
“We figured out eventually that it was the same as this thing that had been described in the Congo in 1939,” Reeder said. “And it was given a name at that time that was Glauconycteris superba, and I know the other animals in this genus Glauconycteris pretty well and when I had this animal in my hand in the field I knew there was no way it belonged to that group.”
Reeder brought it back to the Smithsonian and examined it. After about an hour, she an a colleague decided the bat was so different from every other species that it needed its own genus.
So, instead of Glauconycteris superba, Reeder called it Niumbaha superba, to honour the local Zande people, who live in the region of South Sudan where Reeder does her research.
South Sudan had been embroiled in conflict for decades before achieving independence in 2011. Very little of the country has been developed, and scientists have only recently been able to safely do research in the forests. Reeder thinks her rare badger bat is only a sign of all of the new discoveries scientists will make in the area.
“What it highlights is that there is so much about African biodiversity, particularly subsaharan African biodiversity that we just don’t know,” Reeder said.
The bat was euthanized and preserved, and now is available at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. for researchers to study.
The Fauna and Flora International Programme helps Reeder work with the government and rangers. DeeAnn Reeder is holding the 'badger bat' with colleague Adrian Garside of Fauna & Flora.
Recent peace following South Sudan's independence in 2011 has allowed scientists to go back into the wild and conduct research.
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