Media & Education
BATS Magazine

Volume 36, Issue 3, 2017

What’s in a Name?

By Katie Jepson, BCI Communications Associate


Two years in the field, 3,000 specimens and 18 different museums later,
Nancy Irwin and her team confirmed a new bat species.
Photo: Piotr Naskrecki.

Its name might mean “happy” in the Tok pidgin language of Papua New Guinea, but to many, this recently-named species of bat bears a striking resemblance to a certain backwards-speaking Jedi Master. Bat biologist and past BCI grantee, Dr. Nancy Irwin, who named the species, chose the name “happy” as a reference to the rounded jaw of the bat, which gives it the impression of a constant smile.

“As remote Papuans have never seen Star Wars, I chose to call the bat after the local word ‘Hamamas.’ My field assistants requested that it be called the happy tube-nosed bat in English,” stated Irwin. “The scientific name, Nyctimene wrightae, was chosen in honor of Deb Wright—a field biologist, trainer of many Papuan scientists, and founder of several Papua New Guinea NGOs. She is also very jolly, so this was a perfect fit with the happy tube-nosed bat!”

All articles in this issue:

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