Extinct Bat Turns Out To Be A Native Land Mammal Of Hawaii

Posted: Mar 24 2016, 9:52am CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News


Extinct Bat turns out to be a Native Land Mammal of Hawaii

An extinct bat that was discovered in fossilized form has turned out to be a native mammal of the State of Hawaii.

A bat that is a native of Hawaii was noticed recently. It is only the second mammal to have undergone the evolutionary cycle on the island state. However, the irony of fate is that it is extinct.

Synemporion keana was extant alongside the hoary bat on Hawaii before the arrival of humans. When the people disrupted the ecosystem of Hawaii, the bats vanished from view. 

Some of the animals were brought to Hawaii by the first humans to enter the territory. These included rodents and swine. The only other mammals known to be native to Hawaii are the monk seal and the hoary bat.

The discovery of a different bat is cause for excitement. The only spanner in the works is the fact that it has long since entered the list of extinct species. Nevertheless, it was quite a shock to find this new species of extinct bat that was a native of Hawaii.  

“The Hawaiian Islands are a long way from anywhere, and as a result, they have a very unique fauna—its native animals apparently got there originally by flying or swimming,” said Nancy Simmons, a co-author on the paper and curator-in-charge of the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Mammalogy.

“Besides the animals that humans have introduced to the islands, like rats and pigs, the only mammals that we’ve known to be native to Hawaii are a monk seal, which is primarily aquatic, and the hoary bat. So finding that there actually was a different bat—a second native land mammal for the islands—living there for such a long period of time was quite a surprise.”

The traces of the bat were found in 1981 inside a lava tube on the island of Maui. Later on in Oahu, Molokai and Kauia, remains of many other samples of these extinct bats were found.

A notable mammalogist studied the relics of these bats for many years before he passed away in 2003. Others carried on his research and finally the classification of the extinct bat took place.

The bat was an evening animal in the same manner as a vesper. It was very different from other species of the same ilk. It is uncertain where this species came from originally. 

“This extinct bat really is something new, not just a slight variation on a theme of a known genus,” Simmons said.

“The new bat contains a mosaic of features from taxa seen on many different continents. At some point, their ancestors flew to Hawaii, but we can’t tell if they came from North America, Asia, or the Pacific Islands—they really could have come from anywhere based on what we know now.”

The bat probably began its journey of evolution some 320,000 years ago. About 1100 years ago, it went extinct leaving no trace behind except for fossil remains.

This bat was most likely an invasive species that entered the island of Hawaii accidentally. Other ecosystem flora and fauna of Hawaii suffered immensely after the arrival of human beings.

More research needs to be done on the bat species. It will yield further clues about the mystery of its origins and sudden disappearance. 

“It seems possible that the reduction of native forests and associated insects after human colonization of the islands contributed not just to the extinction of plants, birds, and invertebrates, but also to the extinction of this endemic bat,” Howarth said.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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