Disk-footed bat found for the first time in India

Disk-footed bat found for the first time in India in Meghalaya's bamboo groove

A team of scientists from Zoological Survey of India, Shillong led by Uttam Saikia found the bat species during field survey work

The disk-footed bat found in Meghalaya. Credit: Uttam Saikia, Zoological Survey of India, Shillong

A new species of bat with a disk-like pad in its thumb has been found in India for the first time inside a bamboo patch near Nongkhyllem Wildlife Sanctuary in Meghalaya.

A team of scientists from Zoological Survey of India, Shillong led by Uttam Saikia found the bat species during field survey work at Lailad area. Scientists from a few European natural history museums were also part of the work. Findings have been published in the recent edition of the Swiss journal Revue Suisse de Zoologie. 

"The bat species Eudiscopus denticulus, aptly called disk-footed bat is very distinctive in appearance with prominent disk-like pads in the thumb and bright orange colouration. From the modifications in the feet, it was presumed to be a bamboo dwelling species that was later identified as a disk-footed bat. This bat is reported to roost inside bamboo internodes aided by their adhesive disks," Saikia said on Sunday. 

He said the species was so far found only in a few localities in Southern China, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. "This new locality in Meghalaya is about 1000-km westward range extension of the species and the present record has added an additional genus (a category above species) and species to the bat fauna of India," said Saikia, who has been documenting bat fauna in India. 

The research team noted that although several bamboo dwelling bat species are common throughout Southeast Asia, this bat is nowhere commonly found and known only from a few localities worldwide. The research team also compared certain DNA sequences of the Meghalaya individual with that of specimens from Vietnam. "Very interestingly, despite a large geographic distance separating the samples, they were found to be identical. And they were also found to be genetically very different from all other known bats bearing disk like pads," he said.

The hilly Meghalaya has so far reported 66 species of bats, out of the 130 species found in the entire country. "Despite the relatively small geographic area of the state of Meghalaya, this discovery of a new genus in the country both confirm that this region is exceptionally rich in Chiropteran diversity and certainly is still underexplored," said the research paper. 

"Considering the bamboo-dominated forest from where these specimens were collected, a similar roosting preference can be expected in Meghalaya," it further said.

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