Coronavirus News Asia

African bat discovery boosts our understanding: study

Bats remain largely mysterious to us. We blame them for spreading deadly viruses, yet we don’t really understand how or why that happens.

Researchers estimate that we’ve only identified 25% of all bat species in the last 15 years. They’re difficult to locate and study, so we lack information about where they live, how they evolved and their true role in the world around them.

This week, scientists learned a bit more about these mystifying creatures, as four new species of African leaf-nosed bats have been discovered, and, the experts say they’re related to the horseshoe bats in China that have become known as the host for novel coronavirus, CNN reported.

The new bat species were announced in a study published Wednesday in a special issue of the journal ZooKeys.

Although much attention is being focused on bats as carriers of disease at the moment, they also pollinate crops, disperse seeds and eat insects like mosquitoes, the CNN report said.

“Bats are small, nocturnal and use high-frequency sound and smell to identify their species to other bats,” said Bruce Patterson, lead study author and Macarthur curator of mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum.

“Because we are large, diurnal and reliant on vision (and lower-frequency sounds), we can’t read their signals very precisely. The real diversity of bats has really opened up in the last 25 years with DNA sequence and ultrasonic recorder technology that helps us recognize the signals bats are using.”

Learning more about bats, both the benefits they offer as well as how they carry and transmit diseases to humans, is key to protecting both bats and humans, the CNN report said.

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