A new bat species has been identified in the rainforests of Lao PDR and Vietnam, and it has a set of fangs which would make any dentist quake in their boots. Named the long-toothed pipestrelle (Hypsugo dolichodon) the species is most closely related to the Chinese pipestrelle (Hypsugo pulveratus) although it is much larger in overall size as well as fang length.
But why does the long-toothed pipestrelle sport such impressive dentures?
It is believed the large fangs may be a result of niche segregation, whereby it could grab larger prey or beetles with a harder exoskeleton and thus removing competition from other species for food. In essence, evolution has allowed the long-toothed pipestrelle to create its own ecological niche within its environment.
Despite first being trapped in 1997 by Charles M. Francis, and Antonio Guillén it has taken 17 years to formally identify the bat as more evidence was needed to determine it was a separate species. However genetic analysis has now proven the species was until now unknown to science. This is highly exciting news and can mean a variety of things.
Foremost we cannot ignore the fact that usually when a new species is identified it usually already endangered. To name but a few examples; the bahian mouse-colored tapaculo a small Brazilian songbird discovered in 2014 is under threat from logging, the first new river dolphin to be discovered in a century last year is though to be highly endangered and a tree dwelling porcupine (Coendou speratus) identified in 2013 is also thought to be vulnerable to deforestation.
As is often the answer in these cases, more research is needed into the long-toothed pipestrelle to determine whether conservation action is needed. Although currently one of the areas where a specimen has been caught is currently being destroyed by the construction of a dam along the Xe Kaman River in Lao PDR. Despite the vegetation of this area being obliterated, Tamás Görföl lead author of the paper identifying the new species does not proclaim this to be death knell for the bat.
In an interview with Mongabay, he claims that although the dam threatens the species, they can “presumably survive in other areas of its distribution if we stop the deforestation of the tropical landscapes”. He also adds that they may be a cave dweller so the protection of caves may also be needed. Another factor is that although the species current distribution is only known to be within Vietnam and Lao PDR it is possible it may be more widely distributed, something which the study and genetic analysis of previously collected materials can reveal.
Bats play a huge ecological role in their environment and every discovery of a new species can be exciting as they can reveal more hidden secrets about the world we live in. Hopefully the long-tailed pipestrelle will buck the trend and be a newly discovered species which is not immediately endangered.
For More Information:
GÖRFÖL, TAMÁS, GÁBOR CSORBA, JUDITH L. EGER, NGUYEN TRUONG SON, and CHARLES M. FRANCIS. “Canines make the difference: a new species of Hypsugo (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae) from Laos and Vietnam.” Zootaxa 3887, no. 2 (2014): 239-250.
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