Two new bat species have just been discovered in Kenya

The two insect-eating bats are part of the Scotophilus species

The two insect-eating bats are part of the Scotophilus species, which are found across Africa and southern Asia.

They average around five inches in length, can weigh up to 85 grams (3 ounces), and sport bright yellow fur on their bellies.

More than half of these little bats were discovered within the last 15 years, and the relationships among them has been long been a source of confusion for biologists.

For one thing, “they’re fairly cryptic,” meaning that they’re hard to find in the wild, said Terry Demos, a postdoctoral fellow at Chicago’s Field Museum and lead author of the study according to National Geographic.

The researchers from Chicago’s Field Museum gathered DNA from skin samples taken from bats in Kenya, and compared it with data from an online genetic database.

21 species

“It’s interesting to know what evolutionary forces have driven and maintained the current diversity of mammals in Africa. We need to have an accurate inventory of how many species there are so we can identify biodiversity hotspots and preserve them,” Demos said.

Scientists discovered the first Scotophilus species nearly 200 years ago.

Since then, 21 species have been described across Africa and Southeast Asia, with 13 species native to the African continent.

The researchers gathered DNA from skin samples taken from bats in Kenya, using their data to organize known species and subspecies (populations that are genetically similar, but geographically isolated).

Their analysis uncovered two previously unknown species.

“Africa is understudied, its biodiversity is underestimated, and there are threats to its biodiversity. This research gives a framework for future scientists to categorise species of bats and describe new species,” Demos noted.

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