Check out these ugly suckers:

“Leaf-nosed? Who you calling leaf-nosed?”

     Scientists in Vietnam recently identified a new species of leaf-nosed bats (Hipposideros griffini) on Cat Ba Island located in Ha Long Bay. Using a combination of comparative morphology (skull and forearm measurements) and genetic analysis (comparing the DNA sequence of the cytochrome b gene), the researchers determined that H. griffini is distinct from the other Southeast Asian Hipposideros bats which are classified into 5 groups: bicolor, pratti, armiger, speoris, and diadema. Appropriately named after the late Professor Donald Redfield Griffin in recognition of his pioneering work in bat echolocation, Griffin’s leaf-nosed bat is distinguised from other Hipposideros bats in Southeast Asia by its use of distinctively high frequencies (76.6–79.2 kHz) for echolocation. In comparison, the closely related species H. a. armiger and H. a. terasensis use frequencies in the range of 64.7–68.8 kHz and 65.9–71.4 kHz, respectively. Echolocation is a sonar system that bats use in which they emit a sound and use the echo of that sound to determine the position and identity of objects in their path. The time delay before a bat hears the echo can be used to determine distance while differences between when the sound reaches one ear and the other ear provides horizontal positional information of an object. Echolocation is vital for bats to navigate as well as hunt or forage.

     Interestingly, the researchers point out that H. griffini and H. armiger are sympatric, which is the scientific term for living in the same geographic area (AKA “cohabitatin'”). They suggest that using different frequencies for echolocation may have played a role in their speciation warranting further study. And no, the researchers make no claims that the bats are using different frequencies to adapt to climate change.

Biodiversity in Vietnam

     Vietnam is no stranger to the discovery of new species of plants and animals. Just last year the Beelzebub’s tube-nosed bat, thus named due to its resemblance to the demon lord, was discovered in Vietnam.

“I came for your soul..but I’ll settle for your thumb.”

And before that a new species of “only-female” lizards was found being served in local restaurants as a delicacy. The lady lizards, Leiolepis ngovantrii, reproduce asexually through parthogenesis, a process whereby an embryo develops without fertilization.

Leiolepis ngovantrii: Latin for no sperm required.

     However, as with many developing countries, Vietnam’s biodiversity is threatened by deforestation, urban encroachment and poaching. Last year the last Javan rhinoceros in Vietnam was killed by poachers. “Reintroduction of the rhinoceros to Vietnam is not economically or practically feasible. It is gone from Vietnam forever” lamented WWF’s Asian Elephant and Rhino Program Coordinator Dr. Christy Williams. In an effort to avoid attaining a similar fate as the Javan Rhino, officials in Vietnam are setting up a nature preserve to protect the saolo, otherwise known as the Asian Unicorn. As for the leaf-nosed bats, their current habitats are protected as they are found in the Cat Ba and Chu Mom Ray National Parks. The bats of Cat Ba are doubly protected given that the island is found in Ha Long Bay, a popular travel destination, which was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

AmasianV. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 2009

Vu Dinh Thong, Sebastien J. Puechmaille, Annette Denzinger, Christian Dietz, Gabor Csorba, Paul J. J. Bates, Emma C. Teeling, Hans-Ulrich Schnitzler. A new species of Hipposideros (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) from VietnamJournal of Mammalogy, 2012; 93 (1): 1 DOI:10.1644/11-MAMM-A-073.1

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