The modern species of bats crawl by the use of its front limbs while taking off the pressure from the hind ones. However, a recent excavation near a town named St. Bathans located in New Zealand landed the scientists with a bat that was massive in bone size with the ability to walk on all four.
The fossil remains of this prehistoric bat dated back to a time period starting from 16-19 million years. Flaunting a mass of just 40 grams, the bat housed a set of teeth as well as bones that were almost three times larger in comparison any average modern bat. The findings related to the fossilized remains of the bat were jotted down in the journal Scientific Reports.
In terms of walking, these creatures showcased a peculiar habit of walking in all fours in order to hunt for food hidden under the leaves or branches of the trees. The Vulcanops jennyworthyae once resided in the forest of Lake Manuherikia which is a prehistoric water body that could be found over the Maniototo region located on the South Island of New Zealand.
The prehistoric animal derives its name from the team member, Jenny Worthy, who excavated the fossilized remains of this burrowing bat. It has been tagged as one of the largest species of burrowing bats known to mankind. The name Vulcan forming the initial half of the scientific name is taken from the Roman god of fire as well as volcanoes. The same is also a reference to a hotel with historical importance which is located near the excavation site of St. Bathans.
The most amazing factor related to this discovery is the addition of the genus, Vulcanops, which is the first of its kind to find a place in the list of bats found in Newland in a time period of 150 years. The modern counterparts of these ancient bats can be found far away in the South American continent.
The lead author of the study, Sue Hand, a paleontologist of University of New South Wales in Sydney explained that the burrowing species of bats find significant similarities with the bats that dominate the South American territory as compared to the ones found in the Southwest Pacific area. This particular prehistoric burrowing creature derives its family line from the bats that prevailed in the areas of New Zealand, Australia, South America and even Antarctica.
The possibility of this prehistoric bat living in the Antarctic region arrives from the fact that about 50 million years prior to the separation of the continents, Antarctica was a part of Gondwana. The place was covered with forests with no ice which provided a great habitat for wildlife to thrive. Post separation, the South American relatives of these burrowing bats separated from their relatives in New Zealand.
The co-author of the study, Paul Scofield, a senior curator of natural history at the Canterbury Museum said that the bats in this area survived alongside the iconic species in New Zealand such as Moas, Kiwi and Tuataras. On contrary to the previously understood system, these species evolved in way more complicated community.
The Vulcanops jennyworthyae found its source of nutrition from consumption of spiders, insects as well as weta. A weta is the common name assigned to 70 different species of insects dominating the territory of New Zealand. The bats used their specialized set of gigantic teeth to consume both plant material as well as smaller version of vertebrates which is strikingly similar to its modern cousins in South America. However, the same diet isn’t found in the bats dominating Australia.
The continuous cooling and drying of the continent for a long period of time caused the extinction of many species of bats native to this area leaving just two varieties in the modern New Zealand. Other varieties of bats dominating this area were introduced artificially by humans to increase the diversity. This latest discovery of prehistoric burrowing bats provides evidence of the wide diversity of species in the Gondwana supercontinent.