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New bat species discovered in Natural History Museum

A bat that was preserved in alcohol for the last 30 years at the Natural History Museum has had an unexpected revival in time for Halloween.

It has been uncovered as the first member of a previously unknown species now named Francis’ Woolly Horseshoe Bat, or Rhinolophus francisi.

The species is named after Charles M. Francis, who collected the specimen in Malaysia in 1983, and is described in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.

Bat bones are very thin, lightweight and fragile. The scientists used a CT scanner to study the shape of the animal’s skull and body without having to touch it.

Museum zoologist Roberto Portela Miguez, a co-author of the study, comments, “The scan of the bat skull reveals spiky, sharp-edged teeth that would work like scissors to break open the hard outer-body casings of insects.” Roberto is responsible for the mammals in the Museum collection of 80 million specimens, which is used by researchers to understand the diversity of life.

Portela Miguez adds, “New species for groups like insects and fishes are discovered fairly regularly, but new mammals are rarer. This is a reminder of how much we still have to discover about the natural world, and how vital museum collections are to support this research.”

The researchers also discovered Rhinolophus francisi thailandicus, a subspecies of Francis’ Woolly Horseshoe Bat, in the jungles of Thailand.

A number of new bat species have been discovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia in recent years. Unfortunately, their habitats are under threat as rainforests are lost to logging and land is converted to agricultural use. The Museum is working closely with international partners to describe the world’s life forms before they disappear.

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·  Francis’ Woolly horseshoe bat, or Rhinolophus francisi, is described in a paper by Soisook et al. the journal Acta Chiropterologica.

·  The Natural History Museum welcomes more than five million visitors a year and is a world-leading science research centre. Through its unique collection and unrivalled expertise it is tackling the biggest challenges facing the world today. It helps enable food security, eradicate disease and manage resource scarcity. It is studying the diversity of life and the delicate balance of ecosystems to ensure the survival of our planet. For more information go to