New bat species discovered in Thar desert

New bat species discovered in Thar desert

Researchers have discovered a new species of bat in the desert district of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.

The bat species known by the name Asellia Tridens is not only a new species in the Thar desert but is the first of such species recorded in India. Earlier, India harboured 118 bat species out of the 1,117 reported worldwide. The new discovery raises the number of bat species to 119.

The discovery has been published in the July 10 edition of the Current Science magazine. This discovery was made during a study on bat conservation and awareness campaign at Gajroopsagar tunnel roosts by researchers Dr K R Senacha and Dr Sumit Dookia.

Asellia Tridens is a widespread species ranging from West Africa, Arabia and Iran to neighbouring Pakistan, but it has been reported for the first time in India, the study claims. The researchers expressed concern over the depletion of the biodiversity of the bats in this region.

Rajasthan’s part of the Thar desert has not only seen remarkable depletion in the species diversity of bats but many of their roosts, as reported earlier, have either been destroyed under the pretext of prevailing misconceptions or evicted casually over a period of the last two decades due to inadequate awareness among locals regarding ecological and economical significance of the bats.

Bats being pollinators, dispensers and insect eaters play an imperative role in the betterment of ecosystems and environment. The research found that four of the 12 species found during 1960-80 in the region were missing.

Beliefs that bats attack noses and suck blood and are a sign of sin, destruction and poverty and also renovation and developmental activities in parts of the Thar desert are among the cited reasons responsible behind the decline in diversity of bats. In the absence of adequate knowledge about the nature and ecological significance of bats, traditionally, local people do not appreciate the presence of the winged visitors in their surroundings and intentionally damage their roosts to get rid of them, turning into the principal factor behind the depletion in bat population and diversity.

Additionally, a majority of the bats in the area have their roosts either in historical monuments (forts and palaces) or dilapidated buildings and unused wells that are approachable by people. Therefore, they are prone to face anthropological disturbances incurred by the virtue of existing bat myths and consequences of renovation activities. People in the area dislike bats and do not want them in their surroundings. This leads intentional damage to bats on their roosting sites.

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