They find the remains of an unknown species of bat that lived 52 million years ago – Mystery Science

A pair of bat skeletons dated to 52 million years ago was recently discovered in a quarry in southwestern Wyoming (USA). These are the oldest bat remains ever discovered.and moreover, they have been identified as members of a previously unknown species.

The new species of bat has been named Icaronycteris gunnelliin honor of Gregg Gunnell, a Duke University paleontologist who died in 2017 and made significant contributions to the understanding of fossil bats and evolution.

According to a study published by a team of American and Dutch researchers, Icaronycteris gunnelli lived at the time of Eocene (55.8 to 33.9 million years ago) and was found in the Green River Formation, a remarkable deposit of fossils, where scientists They have discovered more than 30 bat fossils over the past 60 years.but until now they were thought to all represent the same species.

The oldest recorded bat skeletons were the over 50 million year old fossil remains of I. index and another primitive species called Onychonycteris finneyi.

Identify a new species

researchers of the American Museum of Natural History and the Naturalis Center for Biodiversity in the Netherlands, compared the fossil to the large data set gathered from measurements and other data on museum specimens, clearly identifying a new species.

I. gunnelli weighed only about 25 grams (about half of a tennis ball), was flighty and probably had developed the ability to echolocatesaid the experts.

This discovery is special not only because of the age of the fossils, but also because finding complete fossil bat skeletons is very rare and most ancient specimens are known only from the teeth.

The new species Icaronycteris gunnelli. Credit: Rietbergen et al., 2023, PLOS ONE.

However, the Icaronycteris gunnelli fossils are surprisingly complete, showing all the animal bones in actual positions, which come from limestone rocks that accumulated as lake sediments.

According to scientists, this is because when these bats flew, there was a humid and warm environment, and the whole area was covered by a giant lake, also known as “fossil lake”. Bats (and other fossils) are well preserved here as they ended up in the lake, which is ideal for fossilization.

Differences from modern bats

Common pipistrela, a modern bat.

Icaronycteris gunnellies are slightly different from modern bats: they have longer legs and the arm bones are slightly different in length. The most remarkable thing is that he still had a claw on his index finger. Some other fossil species from this era still have this claw, but it has been lost in most living bats.

You may be interested: They find a fossil of a new species of giant fish that devoured our ancestors.

The fact that these oldest known skeletal specimens are clearly fully formed bats suggests that the first bats appeared millions of years earlier.

Only two other groups of vertebrates achieved powered flight: the first: the flying reptiles called pterosaurs, which became extinct following the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, and the second : birds, which appeared long before bats.

There are currently over 1,460 species of bats found almost everywhere in the world, except for the Earth’s polar regions and a few remote islands. However, although so far the origin of bats remains a mysterythe recent discovery is a step forward in understanding what happened in terms of evolution and diversity in the early days of these animals.

The results were published in the journal PLOS ONE.

References: Live Science/National Geographic.

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