Volume 34, Issue 1, Winter 2015

1331 and Counting


Researchers around the world continue to identify new species of bats. Fifteen species new to science have been described so far this year alone, bringing the total number of recognized bats species to 1,331. The 15 new species reported so far in 2014 come from 11 countries: Panama, Guyana, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Morocco, Cameroon, Kenya, Ethiopia and Australia.

“New bat species are sometimes captured in the field, but others are discovered in museum drawers or laboratories when careful analyses show that samples identified as one species actually represent two or more distinct species,” says Nancy B. Simmons, Curator-in-Charge, Department of Mammalogy, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

“Sometimes these groups have scientific names associated with them from past centuries, in which case old names can be resurrected for the newly identified species,” she adds. “Over the last couple of decades, about two-thirds of the ‘new’ species of bats have fallen into this category. The division of what was once thought to be one species into multiple species is more than just taxonomic bookkeeping; these changes often have important conservation implications. Newly recognized bat species frequently have small geographic ranges and thus may be at greater risk due to habitat loss or other local threats.”

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