Panda Bat or Badger Bat -- Niumbaha Superba Makes Its Mark
Wildlife lovers the world over have been excited recently by the discovery of a new genus of bat, Niumbaha superba. The small black-and-white bat was found in the Bangangai Game Reserve in South Sudan. Photographs of the striking creature have popped up all over the internet as bat fans have spread the word of the new discovery. It is not, however the first time the bat has been encountered.
In 1939, a specimen was captured in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and named Glauconycteris superba. After this most recent find, however, the bat was determined to not be of the genus Glauconycteris though the two are suspected to be closely related. The new name is derived from the Zande word meaning "rare" or "unusual." Zande is the language of the people native to the area where the bat was found.
In addition to the 1939 sighting, there have been three other prior encounters with the black and white bat, all in the middle regions of the African continent. The tiny bat is considered to be what is known as a vesper bat. Vesper bats primarily eat insects and are part of the microbat classification. Microbats use echolocation to hunt their food and tend to have small eyes and large ears. (For more info on microbats and their megabat counterparts, check out this hub.)
The team that discovered Niumbaha superba included researchers from Bucknell University as well as Fauna and Flora International. They had been conducting field research to determine the biodiversity of the area and develop better conservation strategies when the unexpected bat was discovered. DeeAnn Reeder, an associate professor of biology at Bucknell University, said she knew immediately upon spotting it that the bat was "the find of a lifetime."
The International Union for Conservation of Nature has tentatively set the new bat's status as vulnerable based on the rarity of specimens and breadth of the distribution of those specimens. While only five specimens have been found in the more than seven decades since the first encounter in 1939, those specimens have stretched across the entire African continent. this leads researchers to believe that the bat may be more common than they might seem, though they are certainly not as plentiful as other bats in the area.