Monday, April 22, 2013

New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat

Mystacina robusta
Happy Earth Day everybody! Because today we are supposed to focus on conservation, I wanted to talk about one of the rarest animals on the planet-- one that might actually be extinct already. Let the New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bat be a cautionary tale, and let's also hope they aren't completely gone from the Earth.

There are only three extant Bat species in New Zealand, the the Greater Short-tailed Bat is the largest of the group (though they are still only about 9cm long). They, and their sister-species the Lesser Short-tailed Bat, are the only two members of their family. They may have split off from other Bat Families more than 40 million years ago. Once upon a time you could find these bats abundantly on the North and South Islands, but human arrival in New Zealand was the trigger for their decline.

The New Zealand Greater Short-tailed Bats are interesting creatures because they spend quite a bit of time on the ground. They can fly, of course, but are slow and never go very high. You can probably see where this is going, right? With humans came terrestrial mammalian predators like cats and rats. The ground-dwelling bats never had to deal with creatures like those, and they were hunted to elimination on the main islands.

The Bats carried on on a few surrounding islands... until the 1960s when Rats made it over there by accident as well. There hasn't been a confirmed sighting of these rare creatures since 1967, though there have been a number of unofficial reports. If they are still out there, the population would be very, very small. Rat eradication and surveys are needed to support the conservation of the species.

IUCN Status : Critically Endangered
Location : New Zealand
Size : Body length around 9cm
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Chiroptera
Family : Mystacinidae -- Genus : Mystacina -- Species : M. robusta
Image : New Zealand Dept. of Conservation

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