Researchers have discovered a new nectar-eating bat species in Brazil while in the middle of studying the whole of the Lanchophylla genus.
In a study published in the journal ZooKeys, Daniela Dias and Ricardo Moratelli detailed how they found the new species, pointing out what was initially thought to be small inconsistencies in features in the genus were actually characteristics particular to a different species. Specifically, the researchers discovered that some of the bats they were working on were of different form and had paler abdominal fur.
After a closer inspection, Dias and Moratelli concluded that what they were looking at are from a completely different species that has never been identified before. They called the species L. inexpectata, taking inspiration from the surprise element in the discovery.
The researchers came to their conclusion by going over all specimens they have that were currently recognized as representative of Brazilian Lanchophylla. Aside from the difference in fur coloring, the researchers distinguished the two species by identifying differences in how their teeth and skull are formed.
According to Dias and Moratelli, the L. Inexpectata has been the victim of misidentification for over a century. Previously, it was commonly confused with the L. Mordax although the species is also similar in appearance to the L. dekeyseri because of its colors.
Aside from physical features, the researchers also said that the different species are located in different areas: the L inexpectata in Caatinga in Brazil's northeastern end; the L. mordax in the ecotone Altantic Forest-Caatinga and the eastern corridor of the Caatinga; and the L. dekeyseri in the Cerrado-Caatinga ecotone, mid-western Cerrado and the Cerrado of Bolivia in the far west.
The specimens used to identify the new species are now being preserved to become part of the most reputable collections in the world. Some of their new homes would be Brazil's own Museo Nacional, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, London's Natural History Museum and the American Museum of Natural History.
The study received support from the Smithsonian Institution and the Science Without Borders Program/Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development. Both Dias and Moratelli are associated with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.