"It has a black head and dark back fur, both of which are a sharp contrast to its whitish belly. This is the only bat species in the area with such coloration," said study co-author Gabor Csorba, a biologist at the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest.
Despite the fiendish name, Beelzebub bats are typically shy creatures, doing their best to avoid humans in their remote rain forest habitat in Vietnam, scientists say. If captured, however, the bats can turn fierce, noted study co-author Neil Furey, a biologist with the conservation group Fauna & Flora International.
"Once in the hand, they will do their best to escape," Furey said. "In essence, they exhibit a 'flight' first and 'fight' second response—the latter only when they have no other option."
Another new species of tube-nosed bat spreads its furry wings. Called Murina cineracea, this species was found in Cambodia and is widespread throughout Southeast Asia.
Tube-nosed bats feed on insects and are relatively small: Not counting their tails, the animals are typically about 2.5 inches (6.5 centimeters) long—about the length of a human thumb.
Aside from their colors, all three newfound bat species have only slight anatomical differences, making them appear very similar to the untrained eye, Furey said.
(See picture: "Thumb-Size Bat Found in Lava Tunnel.")
Photograph courtesy Neil Furey, FFI
Baring It All
Murina walstoni, another new species of tube-nosed bat from Cambodia, bares its tiny fangs.
Most of the 30 or so known tube-nosed bat species live in relatively undisturbed forests, and tube-nosed bats are highly adapted to foraging among the densely packed trees, Furey said. (See "Bat Bonanza: 100+ Species Found in Five Acres of Jungle.")
"These adaptations render them vulnerable to the effects of deforestation, as they are consequently ill-suited to flying and foraging in the open airspaces characteristic of [human] landscapes."
And that means that if the bat populations start suffering, the forests may be in trouble.