Massive Burrowing Bat Walked On Earth Millions Of Years Ago

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The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived in New Zealand millions of years ago have been found. Above, an illustration of another species in the burrowing bat family.

The most wonderful 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. However, a recent excavation near a town named St. Bathans located in New Zealand landed the scientists with a bat that was massive in bone size with the ability to walk on all four.

An artist's impression of a New Zealand burrowing bat, Mystacina robusta, that went extinct last century. That way the discovered burrowing bats were split from their relatives in South America, researchers wrote.

Vulcanops honours the Roman god of fire and the town's historic Vulcan Hotel, while the second half refers to team member Jenny Worthy, who found the fossils.

New Zealand's burrowing bats that exist today eat insects that they catch on the wing or chase by foot. And they also regularly consume fruit, flowers and nectar.

According to the study, the flying creature is "the first new bat genus to be added to New Zealand's fauna in more than 150 years" and holds clues about the evolution of these creatures in the area during prehistoric times - "this fossil bat indicates that there once was greater ecological diversity in the New Zealand's bat fauna and ... it signals substantial loss of diversity since the Miocene".

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Alan Tennyson, Te Papa's Curator Vertebrates says: "The St Bathans Fauna has produced many remarkable fossils since we began our excavations there 16 years ago but this weird bat is among the most freakish of all the fossils that we've found". 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.

Study co-author Professor Paul Scofield, from Canterbury Museum, said these bats, along with land turtles and crocodiles, show that major groups of animals have been lost from New Zealand.

"They show that the iconic survivors of this lost fauna - the tuatara, moa, kiwi, acanthisittid wrens, and leiopelmatid frogs - evolved in a far more complex community that hitherto thought". This latest discovery of prehistoric burrowing bats provides evidence of the wide diversity of species in the Gondwana supercontinent.

"Its lineage became extinct sometime after the Early Miocene, as did a number of other lineages present in the St Bathans assemblage".

Many bat species are small, including the IN bats above, which each weigh roughly the same as three pennies. Scientists believe that many of these creatures, from terrestrial turtles to "swimming flamingos" known as palaelodids, were warm-adapted species that did not survive after global climate change brought colder and drier conditions to the region.

"This odd fossil bat is very different from the bats living in New Zealand today, and shows that we are missing a huge amount of their evolutionary history", researcher Robin Beck said in the statement.

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