In a study published on Wednesday in a special issue of the journal ZooKeys on the coronavirus; it was announced that four new species of African leaf-nosed bats have been found and they are related to the bats that are the host for COVID-19 –horseshoe bats.
It is crucial to identify all the species of bats as it will help in our understanding of diseases like COVID-19. While the main focus has been on how they spread diseases but the bats also pollinate crops, disperse seeds and eat insects. Sadly, they are still unknown to us and as per experts, humans have only identified 25% of all bat species in the last 15 years.
Bruce Patterson, lead study author and Macarthur curator of mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum said,
Bats are small, nocturnal and use high-frequency sound and smell to identify their species to other bats. Because we are large, diurnal, and reliant on vision (and lower-frequency sounds), we can’t read their signals very precisely. The real diversity of bats has really opened up in the last 25 years with the DNA sequence and ultrasonic recorder technology that helps us recognize the signals bats are using.
The new species of the bat was discovered mostly on the basis of museum specimens that were found in Africa over the last several decades. While the leaf-nosed bats live in Asia, Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, the ones in Africa haven’t been studied in detail.
The most surprising thing to me about this study was that we failed to find much genetic support for long-recognized species, and found trenchant differences existing within what had been considered a single species.
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