First disk-footed bat from India reported in Meghalaya

GUWAHATI: Researchers have hypothesized that rare Eudiscopus populations of bat from Vietnam and Meghalaya may have a very recent common origin and speculated that Eudiscopus populations might have spread with the expansion of bamboo forests in South East Asia.

A team of scientists led by Dr. Uttam Saikia of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Shillong and scientists from a few European natural history museums have reported a very specialized bamboo dwelling bat species from Lailad area adjacent to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary in Meghalaya recently. The bat species Eudiscopus denticulus, aptly called disk-footed bat, is very distinctive in appearance with prominent disk-like pads in the thumb and bright orange colouration. The finding has also been published in the recent edition of Swiss journal Revue Suisse de Zoologie, giving recognition to the rare finding.

But the discovery of yet another bat species from the northeastern state of Meghalaya which has so far been unknown from India, has been more special for the research team after comparison of its DNA with the similar bat species from Vietnam. The research team compared certain DNA sequences of the Meghalaya individual with that of specimens from Vietnam. “Very interestingly, despite a large geographic distance separating the samples, they were found to be identical. And they were also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk-like pads,” they said in a statement.


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From the analysis of the very high frequency echolocation calls of the Meghalaya individual, the research team noted that the call structure is suitable for orientation in a cluttered environment like inside bamboo grooves. While sampling in a bamboo patch adjacent to Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary last summer, Saikia and his colleagues from ZSI stumbled upon a striking looking small bat.

“From the modifications in the feet, it was presumed to be a bamboo dwelling species which was later identified as a disk-footed bat. This bat is reported to roost inside bamboo internodes aided by their adhesive disks,” a team member said.

The researchers noted that although several bamboo dwelling bat species are common throughout South East Asia, this bat is nowhere commonly found and known only from a few localities worldwide. So far, a few localities in Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar were known to be habitats of this species. This new locality in Meghalaya is about 1000 km westward range extension of the species and the present record has added an additional genus (a category above species) and species to the bat fauna of India.

Saikia and colleagues have been documenting the bat fauna of India for some years now. They have reported several interesting species from Meghalaya and raising the tally to an astonishingly high 66 bat species from the hilly state. For a state with abundant natural resources but ecological degradations, this discovery further highlights the need for more comprehensive documentation of lesser known aspects of biodiversity, they added.

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