Photo in the News: New Sucker-Footed Bat Discovered in Madagascar

Sucker-footed bat photo
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January 8, 2007—This newly discovered bat is an exemplar of stick-to-it-iveness—in more ways than one.

Scientists were conducting fieldwork in the fast-disappearing forests of Madagascar when they found this new species of bat with sticky suckers on its feet and thumbs.

The creature, dubbed Myzopoda schliemanni, uses the adhesive organs to scale the large, broad leaves of tropical plants where it roosts.

Only one other species of this sucker-footed family is known to science, and it too makes its home on the large African island (see Madagascar map).

But the newfound mammal lives only in Madagascar's dry western forests, while its cousin is found in the more humid woodlands to the east.

The international team of scientists who made the find suggests that the new bat may be uniquely adapted to Madagascar's vanishing forests.

Only eight percent of the country's original forest cover remains, the scientists estimate, as farmers burn large swaths to make way for farmland and cut down trees for fuel.

But the sparse, scorched land left behind by this destruction is prime habitat for the traveler's palm, a hearty plant whose big, slick leaves require a certain sticky touch.

That Myzopoda schliemanni seems to have adapted to the devastation is a sorry testament to the state of Madagascar's forests, the scientists say. But it also suggests that the rare bats could be out of the woods when it comes to their extinction risk.

"For now, we do not have to worry as much about the future of Myzopoda," Steven M. Goodman, field biologist from Chicago's Field Museum who led the research, said in a statement.

"We can put conservation efforts on behalf of this bat on the back burner, because it is able to live in areas that have been completely degraded."

—Blake de Pastino

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