Today’s Solutions: August 19, 2022

In early 2018, a group of scientists ventured off to conduct a conservation survey of bat populations in Guinea’s isolated Nimba Mountains in West Africa. The researchers were sleuthing in a series of old mining caves when they came across something unusual: a new species of bat with a fiery orange body.

At first, the team thought that the striking orange-colored bat must be a unique iteration of the common species they were investigating. But after a closer examination, the researchers realized it was something completely different.

To do away with their initial uncertainty, the researchers reached out to Nancy Simmons, an expert in bat taxonomy and curator at the American Museum of Natural History. Looking at photos of the bat, Simmons immediately knew the researchers had stumbled across a new species of bat.

“As soon as I looked at it, I agreed that it was something new,” said Simmons. “Then began the long path of documentation and gathering all the data needed to show that it’s indeed unlike any other known species.”

After thorough research, the scientists have now described the species in a new study published in the journal American Museum Novitiates. The bat belongs to a genus called Myotis, and its location of discovery led to its species name, Myotis nimbaensis.

Although discovering a new mammal species in the area is not uncommon, most of these discoveries occur in a lab through complex genetic investigations. To encounter a completely new bat species while out in the field is something entirely different.

“In an age of extinction, a discovery like this offers a glimmer of hope,” explains Winifred Frick, from the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It’s a spectacular animal. It has this bright-orange fur, and because it was so distinct, that led us to realize it was not described before. Discovering a new mammal is rare. It has been a dream of mine since I was a child.”

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