Thursday, June 18, 2015

[PaleoMammalogy • 2015] Mystacina miocenalis • Miocene Fossils Reveal Ancient Roots for New Zealand’s Endemic Mystacina (Chiroptera) and Its Rainforest Habitat

[upper] Lesser short-tailed Bat Mystacina tuberculata foraging on South Island, New Zealand
[lower right] Greater short-tailed Bat Mystacina robusta
[lower left] Fig 2. Upper teeth of extinct and extant mystacinid species.
AB, Mystacina miocenalis sp. nov., St Bathans, Central Otago, New Zealand; Early Miocene. A, holotype, CM2013.18.381, right M1. B, paratype, MNZ S.52355, left M2.
CD, Mystacina tuberculata, Predator Cave, Takaka Hill, Nelson, NZ; Holocene. NMNZ S.32400. C, left M1. D, left M2.
E, Mystacina robusta, Exhale Air Cave, Ellis Basin, Mt Arthur, Nelson, NZ; Holocene. NMNZ S.35205, left P4-M3.
To scale; bar = 2 mm. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0128871

Mystacina tuberculata foraging on South Island, New Zealand.
photo: Rod Morris ||


The New Zealand endemic bat family Mystacinidae comprises just two Recent species referred to a single genus, Mystacina. The family was once more diverse and widespread, with an additional six extinct taxa recorded from Australia and New Zealand. Here, a new mystacinid is described from the early Miocene (19–16 Ma) St Bathans Fauna of Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand. It is the first pre-Pleistocene record of the modern genus and it extends the evolutionary history of Mystacina back at least 16 million years. Extant Mystacina species occupy old-growth rainforest and are semi-terrestrial with an exceptionally broad omnivorous diet. The majority of the plants inhabited, pollinated, dispersed or eaten by modern Mystacina were well-established in southern New Zealand in the early Miocene, based on the fossil record from sites at or near where the bat fossils are found. Similarly, many of the arthropod prey of living Mystacina are recorded as fossils in the same area. Although none of the Miocene plant and arthropod species is extant, most are closely related to modern taxa, demonstrating potentially long-standing ecological associations with Mystacina.

Greater short-tailed Bat Mystacina robusta
Illustration: Peter Schouten

Suzanne J. Hand, Daphne E. Lee, Trevor H. Worthy, Michael Archer, Jennifer P. Worthy, Alan J. D. Tennyson, Steven W. Salisbury, R. Paul Scofield, Dallas C. Mildenhall, Elizabeth M. Kennedy, Jon K. Lindqvist. 2015. Miocene Fossils Reveal Ancient Roots for New Zealand’s Endemic Mystacina (Chiroptera) and Its Rainforest Habitat.

Mystacina tuberculata foraging on South Island, New Zealand.
photo: Rod Morris ||

Fossil of huge 'walking' bat discovered in New Zealand
Fossilized remains of a new bat species, which lived 16 million years ago, walked on four limbs and was three times larger than today's average bat, have been discovered in New Zealand.