Only three flat-headed myotis had ever been reported (one each in 1950, ’66 and ’70). The tiny, elusive bat, known to scientists as Myotis planiceps, weighed about 2.5 grams (about as much as two peanuts) and had a distinctively flat forehead and a known range of just 385 square miles of northeastern Mexico. IUCN, the World Conservation Union, declared it extinct in 1996.
Then a team of Mexican scientists captured, confirmed, examined and released eight of the elusive bats, still very much alive in the same forested region where the species was first discovered. Led by Joaquín Arroyo-Cabrales, senior scientist at the Mexico City Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia, the researchers were supported in part by a grant from Bat Conservation International’s North American Bat Conservation Partnership.
The project began in 1998 specifically to determine whether the species had survived the 30 years or so since the last flat-headed myotis had been reported. Success finally came in June 2004, after special mist nets with very small mesh were stretched over water sources and paths that seemed most likely to be used by the bats.
Eight flat-headed myotis were captured, all adults. Seven were females. All were collected in coniferous forests, most over an artificial pond.
Richard Laval, an expert on the identification of Myotis bats, confirmed the identification by Arroyo-Cabrales, Rodrigo A. Medellín and Oscar J. Polaco. In addition to precise measurements, tissue samples were taken for molecular analyses and echolocation calls were recorded.
A great deal remains to be learned about the flat-headed myotis. After confirming that the extremely rare bats still survive, the researchers are studying its needs and behavior and refining a conservation plan to increase its odds for long-term survival.
BCI members can read the whole story of the rediscovery of the flat-headed myotis in the Fall issue of BATS magazine.
BCI’s North American Conservation Fund supports research projects like this one throughout Canada, the United States and Mexico. To support this important work, please contact BCI’s Department of Development at firstname.lastname@example.org.