Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Secret Agent Bat

It’s been a bit since I’ve written about a mammal (actually, a month to the day) so I decided to raid the EDGE1 website, which deals with exceedingly endangered mammals, many of which are, unsurprisingly, small-rodent looking things, simply due to the large percentage of small-rodent looking mammals2 (those may come later). In this post, however, I’ll to tell you about a bat with the coolest adaptation ever: suction cups.

Image from EDGE
Image from EDGE

Yes, the Old World Sucker-Footed Bat (Myzopoda aurita) has, as its name suggests, suction cups on its wrists and ankles. Because of this adaptation, it can attach itself in cheesy-‘60s-spy-film style to the sides of broad leaves and smooth stems, hence the title of the post. Otherwise, it looks much like any other microchiropteran (echolocating bat, as opposed to the fruit bats), with ears bigger than its head and small, beady eyes. As my grandmother put it, it looks like a bulldog with fins.

There is little known about this bat’s specific habits. It is a moth-eater (mostly) and may require specific broad-leaved palms to roost upon. Researchers believe the glands in the suction cups might produce a glue-like substance (since we all know how long those plastic suction cups stick normally). While most bats are observed by mist netting, the Sucker-Footed Bat (such a cool name!) maneuvers well enough to avoid them, leading to even less certainty about this animal’s lifestyle.

They’re found only on the eastern edge of Madagascar, though evidence suggests it once (in the Pleistocene) inhabited most of eastern Africa. Loss of habitat has certainly negatively affected the bat’s populations, and sadly, there aren't many conservation efforts in place (although just telling you about it has helped the situation just a little bit). Scientists have recently found another species in the same genus, making it possibly a little less Evolutionarily Distinct.

Oh, by the way, the last suggestion I got was that post last month that I talked about. I’m kind of hard up for new ideas. Pleeeeaaase?

1That stands for Evolutionarily Distinct Globally Endangered, meaning that once these animals are extinct, nothing like them will exist in the world. Kinda chilling, isn’t it?
2Just because I’m describing them all as “small-rodent looking mammals” does not mean they’re all the same. Small-rodent looking mammals are exceedingly diverse.


Anonymous said...

You know, you might want to spread out from endangered ugly things to simply ugly things.

I know we need to protect the endangered ones, but letting people know more about the uglies may get the uglies to be a more accepted part of nature? (the question mark here is because I know most people don't give a flying flip about the uglies) At least you could get them out there.

Don't stop posting, I came here as a lurker from PZ's site, and still check in here, and I still browse here for nature's twists on what the hominids consider to be beauty.

Professor Buckeye said...

Myzopoda Aurita translates to "to suckle-foot (Myzo-poda) long ears (Aurita)".

Again, the first word seems to be Greek.


Garfman said...

Ah, Anonymous, Raging Wombat already has a wonderful site about ugly animals. Check out the link in my sidebar. I'll keep my focus on those in immedate danger of extinction.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no good UET suggestions just now.

But I did want to report that I wore my very hip "Save the Wartyback Mussel" UET T-shirt to our local park bioblitz and got lots of positive comments on it.

Hope it generates some hits for you and possibly some revenue (the guys were interested in the "tick magnet" shirts...)but more importantly...saves the Wartyback!