‘Extinct’ bat rediscovered after 120 years in the wilderness
The only previously known specimens of the 'big-ear bat' were collected by an Italian scientist in 1890
Image Julie Broken-Brow
A Papua New Guinea bat species thought to be extinct has been rediscovered by a team of University of Queensland researchers.
UQ School of Agriculture and Food Sciences students Catherine Hughes and Julie Broken-Brow were on a field expedition in the Abau coastal district in Papua New Guinea’s Central Province when they caught one of the rare bats.
Researcher Dr Luke Leung’s said the New Guinea Big-eared Bat Pharotis imogene had not been reported since the first and only specimens were collected in 1890 by an Italian scientist.
“The species was presumed extinct,” Dr Leung said. “We captured one individual about 120km east of the only previous known locality at Kamali.”
The New Guinea big-eared bat and the long-eared bats (also called big-eared bats) are distinguished from all other Papua New Guinea bats by a combination of large ears and a simple nose-leaf located behind their nostrils.
The only information on the species has been taken from a few specimens in collections which have originated from the Museo Civico di Storia Naturale in Genova, Italy, where the specimens collected in 1890 were housed.
The bat is listed as critically endangered (possibly extinct) on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature “‘Red List” of Threatened Species and is also in the list of the top 100 of the world’s unique and endangered mammals.
Ecological knowledge is sparse for much of Papua New Guinea’s bat fauna, and a third echolocating species which uses ultrasonic calls to identify and navigate habitats is known from fewer than five localities.
The lack of information on PNG bat fauna makes species identification and conservation difficult.
“Further studies need to be done to establish whether the New Guinea big-eared bat is one of a small number of mammal species endemic to the south-eastern peninsula region, or if it occurs more widely,” Dr Leung said.
“Many of the coastal lowland habitats throughout Papua New Guinea are among the most threatened in the country due to clearing for logging and agriculture, and more field surveys of local bat populations could assess the conservation status of the species and inform future strategies to ensure their preservation,” he said.
Papua New Guinea is a recognised biodiversity hotspot, with seven per cent of the world’s species diversity located there.
Dr Leung said that with the identification of many new species every year, biodiversity numbers would continue to grow but many species were under imminent threat.
For more information see the research paper at http://australianmuseum.net.au/journal/Hughes-2014-Rec-Aust-Mus-664-225232; an article on
The Conversation at http://theconversation.com/lost-bat-species-rediscovered-after-120-years-in-the-wilderness-26062; and the
Australian Museum blog at http://australianmuseum.net.au/news-blogs
Contact: Julie Broken-Brow, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, 0419 158 707, Dr Luke Leung, School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, 0418 171 062, or Jackie Mergard, Faculty of Science, 0435 090 802.
Julie and Catherine both undertook study in the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences' Bachelor of Applied Science (Wildlife Science).
Dr Luke Leung
I am a field ecologist with strong interest in the management of wildlife populations. I spend a lot of time doing field research with rare and endangered species, as well as vertebrate pests such as introduced rats and mice for both conservation and management outcomes. My study sites range from cereal crop fields, to desert, rainforests and offshore islands in Australia and Asia. My research projects are in conservation biology, ecology of mammals, behavioural ecology of vertebrates, and predator-prey relationships in vertebrates.
- Ecology and conservation of native mammals in Australia and Asia
- Ecology and control of introduced vertebrate pests in Australia and Asia
- UQ Researcher Link
- Ecology and conservation of the Northern Hopping Mouse on Groote Eylandt
- Ecology and conservation of the Bare-rumped Sheathtail Bat in Cape York
- Ecology and conservation of bats in Melanesia
- Ecology and conservation of frogs in the Solomon Islands
Research Project Opportunities
- Ecology and conservation of a native mammal in Australia or Asia
- Ecology and control of an introduced vertebrate pest in Australia or Asia
PhD Candidate, University of Queensland
BAppSc (Hons), University of Queensland
Julie Broken-Brow is currently a PhD candidate with the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences, where she is studying the ecology of Sheathtail bats in Cape York, Queensland. She completed her Bachelor of Applied Science in Wildlife Science in 2012, with School of Animal Studies. During her undergraduate degree, Julie was awarded two Summer research scholarships. This was followed by a postgraduate research Honours project looking at how microbats use different structured Grey Mangrove forests in south-east Queensland. She was awarded first class Honours for this project and has since presented her findings at several international conferences.
Julie has actively participated in numerous research projects with Dr Luke Leung and the School of Agriculture and Food Sciences. This has included rodent baiting trials, radiotracking Brushtail possums in Brisbane, studying the ecology of Grassland Melomys in Torres Strait, bat surveys in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands. She has also gained field experience with PhD students from University of Newcastle, radiotracking Freetail bats; and University of Sydney, doing fauna surveys in the Simpson Desert. She has also remained actively involved in campus life through her role as President of SWAG in 2013 and as a practical demonstrator and tutor for 7 undergraduate courses.
Julie's bat expertise has allowed her to work with international bat researchers in Nepal, India, Costa Rica and Malaysia. She specialises in bats of the tropics and has a particular passion for ecology of Saccolaimus species.
- Ecology of Saccolaimus spp. in Cape York, Queensland
- Habitat use of Grey Mangrove forests by microbats in south-east Queensland
- Bats of the Asia Pacific region
- PhD research project – Roost and foraging ecology of Saccolaimus mixtus in Cape York
- Methodological improvements for catching Saccolaimus spp. and other high flying species
Bat ecology and reference call collection in Asia Pacific
B. Appl. Sci, Hons. I
Having a background from Papua New Guinea (PNG), I was keen to conduct my Honours Research in PNG. With the country’s beautiful people and environment, and exquisite fauna and flora, I was determined to get in!
My research was sponsored by Cloudy Bay Sustainable Forestry Ltd. They are PNG’s first major investment program that has fully integrated sustainable management and harvesting of their timber resources with 100% downstream processing. My study looked at the Effects of selective logging on Rattus leucopus and microbats in the lowland forests of Cloudy Bay, Central Province, Papua New Guinea.
The study aims to (1) provide a baseline inventory of small mammals occurring in different areas of the Cloudy Bay Forestry Management Area (CBFMA), and (2) determine in small mammal populations are being affected by selective harvesting.
The relative abundance of rodents was assessed using small rodent live-traps (Sherman traps). Results showed that the mean relative abundance of R. leucopus significantly differed between the 6yr-logged forest and unlogged forest, with the mean being two times higher in 6yr-logged forest. A plausible explanation for this difference was that the moderate level of canopy cover and sparse ground cover, and moderate levels of disturbance of the 6yr-logged forest are preferred by R. leucopus.
Audio-detection devices were used to sample the number of passes of different microbat species in the CBFMA. Mist nets and harp traps were used to observe local microbat species, and to collect reference calls to create a reference call library of the local microbat species. Results showed significant associations between logging history and the number of passes from microbat species.
An outstanding find during this study was the capture of the New Guinea Big-eared Bat, Pharotis imogene. This microbat was captured using a harp trap on the edge of a recently logged forest. P. imogene is currently placed on the IUCN red-list as ‘Critically Endangered, possibly extinct,’ with no reporting’s of the microbat since it was first captured in 1890 in the village of Kamali, 120 kilometres west of the current location of capture.
This study provides an early observation on the effects of selective logging on small mammal species. A longer-term monitoring program would provide further understanding of the impact of selective logging on small mammal populations.