Giant extinct bat burrowing bat fossil discovered in New Zealand

Washing of St Bathans sediments through sieves in Manuherikia River in New Zealand to collect fossil bones and teeth of an ancient burrowing bat

Washing of St Bathans sediments through sieves in Manuherikia River in New Zealand to collect fossil bones and teeth of an ancient burrowing bat

The fossilised remains of a giant burrowing bat that lived millions of years ago have been found in New Zealand, an global team of scientists have announced.

"This bat was relatively large, with an estimated body mass of ~40 [grams], and its dentition suggests it had an omnivorous diet", the study's abstract reads.

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

The study, was conducted by researchers not only from New Zealand, but also Australia, the United Kingdom and the US and is published in Scientific Reports.

In findings published in the journal Scientific Reports, the scientists said the bat was peculiar because it not only flew but also scurried about on all fours over the forest floor, under leaf litter and along branches foraging for food. It has been given the name Vulcanops jennyworthyae, after team member Jenny Worthy who found the fossils.

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Besides these, the ancient creature was much similar to the South American bats and had a varied diet like spiders and a few other insects.

It also represents the first new bat genus to be added to New Zealands fauna in more than 150 years, they said. "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, South America and possibly Antarctica".

An artist's impression of a New Zealand burrowing bat, Mystacina robusta, that went extinct last century.

The big sized teeth of the animal were an advantage and made it easier to consume both plant material and smaller version of vertebrates which is similar to its modern cousins in South America.

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