Bats are usually characterized as ravenous, cave-dwelling creatures with an aversion to sunlight. However, not all bats should be so readily stereotyped; like the Bolivian Myotis midastactus, for instance. It was recently thrust back in the spotlight following the classification of a new species.
Myotis midastactus is primarily known for the distinct golden-yellow coloring of its fur, which makes it unique among other species of mouse-eared bats. In fact, this distinction has only been seen in a handful of bat species found in South America, leading to the original Myotis simus classification.
A team of animal researchers looked at 27 specimens kept in American and Brazilian museums to confirm this bat was a different species from M. simus. Interestingly, they decided to give the creature the name midastactus, after King Midas from Greek mythology. He could turn anything to gold with the mere touch of a hand.
A Day in The Life Of...
Colonies of Myotis midastactus live in the Bolivian savanna, where colonies will house themselves in underground holes or hollow trees to avoid the daylight. Under the cloak of night, they take to the skies and hunt small insects to eat, thriving as nocturnal mammals, just like other bats.
Hair color can be an important factor when trying to stay alive in the animal kingdom. Species survive long enough to reproduce through successfully finding food and avoiding predators.
The golden fur these creatures exhibit would allow them to blend in with their savanna surroundings, which would include camouflaging themselves among dried grass and dead shrubs. This gives them an edge over other bat species, as typical bats with darker fur reside in dense forests, where a black coat would offer more apt protection from being spotted by prey or predator.
A Golden Discovery:
Dr Ricardo Moratelli from the Brazilian Oswaldo Cruz Foundation aided the team responsible for the findings ,which, in turn, led to the renaming. He used his knowledge from a paper he authored in 2011 laying out differences in bats from areas in Bolivia to others found in parts of South America near the Amazon River. The investigation also found no evidence that M. Simus is even present in Boliva. The morphological analysis of the museum exhibits were a critical part of the reclassification after Dr Moratelli was unable to capture a living M. midastactus specimen after attempting to unsuccessfully for two months.
"I can confidently say that many new species from different zoological groups are in museum cabinets around the world, awaiting recognition and formal description," said Dr Moratelli on BBC Nature. "Discovering new species is the most exciting part of my research and in some cases describing a new species can be the first step to preserve others."
Dr Moratelli is responsible for discovering four other species of mouse-eared bats: Myotis diminutus found in Ecuador, Myotis izecksohni in southern Brazil, Myotis lavali from north-eastern Brazil, and Myotis handleyi from Venezuela. The new golden bat is described in the Journal of Mammalogy where Dr Moratelli — along with his companion, Dr Don Wilson of the Smithsonian Institution — published their findings.