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Giant extinct burrowing bat discovered in New Zealand

Press Trust of India  |  Melbourne 

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing that lived in millions of years ago have been discovered by an international team of scientists.

Teeth and bones of the extinct - which was about three times the size of an average today - were recovered from 16 to 19-million-year-old sediments near the town of St Bathans in Central Otago on the

Burrowing bats are only found now in New Zealand, but they once also lived in Australia, according to researchers at the (UNSW).

Burrowing bats are peculiar because they not only fly; they also scurry about on all fours, over the forest floor, under leaf litter and along tree branches, while foraging for both animal and

With an estimated weight of about 40 grammes, the newly found fossil bat named Vulcanops jennyworthyae was the biggest burrowing bat yet known, researchers said.

It also represents the first new bat genus to be added to New Zealand's fauna in more than 150 years, they said.

"Burrowing bats are more closely related to bats living in than to others in the southwest Pacific," said Sue Hand, at UNSW.

"They are related to vampire bats, ghost-faced bats, fishing and frog-eating bats, and nectar-feeding bats, and belong to a bat superfamily that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, and possibly Antarctica," said Hand, of the study published in the journal Scientific Reports.

New Zealand's burrowing bats are also renowned for their extremely broad diet.

"They eat insects and other invertebrates such as weta and spiders, which they catch on the wing or chase by foot. And they also regularly consume fruit, flowers and nectar," said Hand.

"However, Vulcanops's specialised teeth and large size suggest it had a different diet, capable of eating even more as well as small vertebrates - a diet more like some of its South American cousins. We do not see this in Australasian bats today," she said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, January 11 2018. 15:55 IST