Saturday, 29 August 2015

Lonchophylla inexpectata: A new species of Nectar-feeding Bat from the Caatinga of Brazil.


Nectar-feeding Bats of the genus Lonchophylla are found tropical South and Central America, where they are important pollinators of some plant groups. There are currently twelve recognized species, with a cluster of smaller species having recently been transferred to another genus, Hsunycteris.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 22 July 2015, Ricardo Moratelli of the Fiocruz Mata Atlântica of the Fundação Oswaldo Cruz and the Division of Mammals at the National Museum of Natural History and Daniela Dias of the Laboratório de Biologia e Parasitologia de Mamíferos Silvestres Reservatórios at the Instituto Oswaldo Cruz, describe a new species of Nectar-feeding Bats of the genus Lonchophylla, from museum specimens collected in the arid Caatinga habitat (dry shrubland and thorn forest) of northeastern Brazil between 1908 and 1976.

The new species is named Lonchophylla inexpectata, where ‘inexpectata’ means ‘unexpected’. It is based entirely on museum specimens previously ascribed to the species Lonchophylla mordax, a species first described in 1903 from Brazil, and which formerly included populations from as far west as Colombia and Ecuador and as far north as Costa Rica, but which is now regarded as exclusively east-Brazilian in distribution. However, while previous taxonomists have removed distant populations from the species, it is currently considered to inhabit both the wet Atlantic Rainforests and arid Caatinga environment within this region, an improbable juxtaposition of habitats.

Moratelli and Dias examined museum specimens of ‘Lonchophylla mordax’ from both Atlantic Rainforest and Caatinga environments, and found that the Caatinga specimens were persistently paler than the Atlantic Forest specimens, many being described in museum records as ‘faded’. Further investigation revealed that these specimens also had smaller skulls, with narrower, more slender snouts, and slightly different dentition, with a well-developed lingual cusp (cusp on the inner, tongue, side of the tooth) on the fourth premolar, which was absent from the Atlantic Forest specimens.

Dorsal (A) and ventral (B) pelage of Lonchophylla inexpectata. Scale bar is 10 mm. Moratelli & Dias (2015).

Lonchophylla inexpectata has not yet been studied as a separate species in the wild, and its exact distribution is unclear, though museum specimens have been identified that were collected in both Pernambuco and Bahia States. However Moratelli and Dias note that expansion of agriculture in eastern Brazil has led to clearing of many areas of Atlantic Rainforest and its replacement with an artificial environment closer to the arid Caatinga, which may have led to Lonchophylla inexpectata expanding its range.

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