"The fact that these Senegalese bats are unrelated and are different to their cousins in other parts of Africa, suggests that West Africa may have been isolated in the past and formed," says Nancy Irwin. (Credit: © Brock Fenton)

Is West Africa a hot spot for new bat species?

Five newly identified bat species found in Senegal suggests West Africa may be a “bio-geographic hot spot,” with more species to “discover,” researchers say.

During seven expeditions to the Niokolo-Koba National Park in south-eastern Senegal, and subsequent genetic analysis, scientist from the University of York and the Czech Republic discovered five species of bats that looked similar to other populations in Africa, differed significantly from them genetically.

Taxonomists are now working on describing formally these new species. Vesper bats (Vespertilionidae) are already the largest family of bats with more than 400 known species. The research is published in Frontiers in Zoology.

The researchers studied 213 vespertilionid bats from Senegal and identified ten species, five of which were significantly genetically different from their nominate species: Pipistrellus hesperidus, Nycticeinops schlieffenii, Scotoecus hirundo, Neoromicia nana, and Neoromicia somalica.

“The fact that these Senegalese bats are unrelated and are different to their cousins in other parts of Africa, suggests that West Africa may have been isolated in the past and formed a refugium, where populations gradually diverged and even acquired new chromosomal configurations,” says Nancy Irwin of the Department of Biology at York.

“This exciting finding confirms that West Africa may represent an underestimated bio-geographic hotspot with many more species to discover.”

Source: University of York

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