Giant bats lived in New Zealand 16 million years ago

Paleontologists discovered in New Zealand the remains of a fossil bat that lived on the archipelago about 16 million years ago.

The new species was named Vulcanops jennyworthyae in honor of the ancient Roman fire god Vulcan and Australian explorer Jennifer Worthy. There is also an alternative version – a New Zealand hotel, in which paleontologists lived during excavations, also called the “Vulcan” (Vulcan Hotel).

By the standards of bats, the fossil species was a real giant – the mass of its body is almost three times that of its modern counterparts. However, bats in principle are not too large, because they need to have the speed and maneuverability to catch prey. Therefore, in comparison with other mammalian species, the fossil bat did not have the most impressive dimensions – its body weight was only 39.8 to 42.6 grams, whereas in the living members of this suborder of bats, the corresponding figure was 13.8 grams on average.

Unusually large size is not the only interesting feature of V. jennyworthyae. These animals could not only fly, but also creep along the ground. For this purpose they had special claws. Moreover, since they were still quite large, these bats probably spent most of the time crawling instead of flying.

Such a land way of life led to the fact that V. jennyworthyae, unlike their blood-sucking brethren, did not disdain and plant food. Sometimes they could eat insects. This was facilitated by the fact that in New Zealand, such food was abundant.

According to scientists, earlier on the New Zealand islands a lot of species of bats lived, however, climate changes led to the fact that at present there are only two of them left: Mystacina tuberculata and Mystacina robusta. Both of them are relatives of the fossil V. jennyworthyae. In addition, bats are generally the only surviving “indigenous” mammals in New Zealand. All the others were later brought here by people.

The description of the find is published in the British scientific journal Scientific Reports.