But after closer inspection, Texas Tech University biologists discovered a new species found only on the Caribbean island and whose origins probably trace back to a dramatic marooning after glaciers receded and sea levels rose.
The discovery was made by Peter Larsen, a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Lizette Siles, graduate student of zoology. It was featured in the online version of the peer-reviewed journal, Mammalian Biology.
Researchers from the University of Scranton, South Dakota State University and the University of Nebraska also contributed to the discovery.
As a way of honoring St. Vincent’s inhabitants, the researchers said this new species of the genus Micronycteris has been named after the Garifuna people – the blended culture of Carib, Arawak and West African peoples that trace their ancestry back to St. Vincent.
Larsen said he went to St. Vincent in 2005-2006 on two expeditions with a team of researchers seeking to categorize bat diversity on the island.
“We didn’t know at the time when we caught these particular specimens that it was a new species,” he said. “We thought it was a species that had been described already in South America. A year or so went by, and I happened to look at this species that we had collected and compared it to what we thought it was – a species from Trinidad. But the St. Vincent bat was huge comparatively speaking.”
Larsen gave the sample to Siles, who is an expert in Neotropical bat morphology. After looking at the teeth and the skull, she determined the bat from St. Vincent was distinct from its closest South American relatives. Though the mainland relatives are smaller, often small animals grow larger and large animals grow smaller when introduced onto an island.
Siles said that though the island effects on the body size may have played a role in this example, the species on St. Vincent is genetically distinct and has species-level differences in body type, which is how the team determined that the bat was a new species to science.
“Its size was the first clue,” she said. “It’s a very large bat in body and skull size compared to its mainland counterparts. Also it differs in specific skull and teeth characteristics. The lower incisors are a lot larger than they are wide. That’s completely different than the one he thought it was. At the base of the skull where the ear is, there are supposed to be two wells. Those wells are very shallow. On the mainland species, they’re very deep.”
The new species came about fairly recently, the researchers said, probably sometime in the last 600,000 to 1 million years. Prior to this, the bat’s common ancestor from the South American mainland managed to island-hop across to St. Vincent when sea levels were much lower.
The marooning likely occurred during the Pleistocene, after melting glaciers caused rising sea levels that isolated the St. Vincent population.
Siles said the bat is mainly an insect eater that will roost in caves, trees and even logs on the forest floor.
However, the animal has an uncommon method for catching prey, she said.
“They can actually pick their insect prey off the surface of rocks and leaves,” Siles said. “Not all insectivores can do that, because most insectivores catch their prey on the fly. Their big ears, wide wings and membranes between the rear feet and tail allow them to maneuver better.”
To see the report, visit this site.
Find Texas Tech news, experts and story ideas at www.media.ttu.edu and on Twitter @TexasTechMedia.
CONTACT: Peter Larsen, post-doctoral research associate, Department of Biological Sciences, Texas Tech University, (806) 742-3722 ext. 283 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Lizette Siles, graduate student of zoology, Natural Science Research Laboratory, Texas Tech University, email@example.com.
John Davis | Newswise Science News
Copper hydroxide nanoparticles provide protection against toxic oxygen radicals in cigarette smoke
29.05.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
Water forms 'spine of hydration' around DNA, group finds
26.05.2017 | Cornell University
The world's highest gain high power laser amplifier - by many orders of magnitude - has been developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde.
The researchers demonstrated the feasibility of using plasma to amplify short laser pulses of picojoule-level energy up to 100 millijoules, which is a 'gain'...
Staphylococcus aureus is a feared pathogen (MRSA, multi-resistant S. aureus) due to frequent resistances against many antibiotics, especially in hospital infections. Researchers at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut have identified immunological processes that prevent a successful immune response directed against the pathogenic agent. The delivery of bacterial proteins with RNA adjuvant or messenger RNA (mRNA) into immune cells allows the re-direction of the immune response towards an active defense against S. aureus. This could be of significant importance for the development of an effective vaccine. PLOS Pathogens has published these research results online on 25 May 2017.
Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus) is a bacterium that colonizes by far more than half of the skin and the mucosa of adults, usually without causing infections....
Physicists from the University of Würzburg are capable of generating identical looking single light particles at the push of a button. Two new studies now demonstrate the potential this method holds.
The quantum computer has fuelled the imagination of scientists for decades: It is based on fundamentally different phenomena than a conventional computer....
An international team of physicists has monitored the scattering behaviour of electrons in a non-conducting material in real-time. Their insights could be beneficial for radiotherapy.
We can refer to electrons in non-conducting materials as ‘sluggish’. Typically, they remain fixed in a location, deep inside an atomic composite. It is hence...
Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.
Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...
24.05.2017 | Event News
23.05.2017 | Event News
22.05.2017 | Event News
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
29.05.2017 | Earth Sciences