Extinct NZ bat identified in Otago – In the News

New Zealand and Australian researchers have identified another extinct New Zealand bat species, this one weighed about 40 grams – making it the biggest burrowing bat discovered.

Artists impression of the greater short-tailed bat, which became extinct in the 1960s. Credit: Gavin Mouldey.

While so-called burrowing bats are now only found in New Zealand, they once also lived in Australia and are peculiar as they forage on the forest floor as well as fly. Discovered in 19- to 16-million-year-old sediments in Central Otago, Vulcanops jennyworthae has been classified as a new genus, the first new bat genus added to New Zealand’s fauna in over 150 years. Its description was published in Scientific Reports.

Canterbury Museum’s Professor Paul Scofield said Vulcanops, along with land turtles and crocodiles, showed that major groups of animals had been lost from New Zealand. “They show that the iconic survivors of this lost fauna – the tuataras, moas, kiwi, acanthisittid wrens, and leiopelmatid frogs – evolved in a far more complex community that hitherto thought.”

The newly-identified bat species was covered by local media, including:

NZ Herald: New Zealand was once home to a giant, burrowing bat
Stuff.co.nz: Giant extinct burrowing bat discovered in South Island
Radio NZ: Prehistoric bat bones unearthed in Otago
Newshub: Giant bats used to soar above Otago