Researchers have recently determined a new bat species native to Hawaii from a fossil of the animal, which is now extinct in the Hawaiian Islands. The discovery came after decades of studying the fossil, and it would make it the second known mammal on Hawaii to have evolved on the island chain, said the report published earlier this week on Monday.
Given the remote location of the Hawaiian Islands, it was previously thought to only support one prevalent land mammal, said the research published on the journal American Museum Novitates earlier this week.
Hawaii is isolated from almost everyone, and is because of that reason that it contains a particularly unique fauna, said co-author of the study Nancy Simmons from the American Museum of Natural History’s Department of Mammalogy.
Francis Howarth, an entomologist at Bishop Museum and co-author of the study as well, was the first one to discover the remains of the bat’s skeletons preserved over the years in the lava tubes located in Maui back in 1981. Nevertheless, later on Howarth also found traces of the Synemporion keana in four other islands including Kauai, Molokai and Oahu.
The hoary bat, the single native land mammal of Hawaii, was apparently not alone thousands of years ago, as researchers believe the now extinct Synemporion keana bat co-existed for several years with the winged mammal native from the island.
The recently identified bat also native from Hawaii is described in the study as a kind of vesper, or evening bat. The species found by Howarth has baffled scientists as it has several features hard to trace back in order to find its relatives or ancestors.
The research was conducted by scientists at Bishop Museum in collaboration with a third scientist from the American Museum of Natural History. The Synemporion keana made its debut in the fossil record on the Hawaiian Islands as far back as 320,000 years ago, and it is thought to have survived until less than 1,100 years ago.
Although there’s still some speculation on the exact time this bat species became extinct, researchers consider the possibility for the cause of the land mammal’s extinction could have been the work of humans.
The reduction of native forests and many insect species after human colonization may have been the reason why the endemic bat from Hawaii identified as Synemporion keana is extinct nowadays, notes Howarth in the paper published in the journal American Museum Novitates.
Source: Digital Library