After gathering specimen for nearly a decade in search of evidence, a leading Indonesian bat expert said he had identified a new species of frugivore bat endemic to Sulawesi and its adjacent islands, making it the latest sign of the country’s rich biodiversity.
Ibnu Maryanto, a chiropterologist from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday that the new species, which has been validated through peer-review, is mainly found in Central Sulawesi and the islands Talaud and Wowoni, on the eastern part of Indonesia. It is the second bat species identified in the genus Thoopterus.
This medium-sized fruit bat species, Ibnu said, is sympatric to the first species in the same genus, Thoopterus nigrescens, which inhabits Sulawesi and nearby Sangihe, Talaud and Buton islands, as well as Morotai Island in North Maluku.
Ibnu added that he detected the possibility of a new fruit bat species in the Lore Lindu National Park in Central Sulawesi when he was on a research there with fellow scientist Mohammad Yani in 2000 and 2001.
“I continued to collect more samples and discovered that such bats are also spotted in Wowoni and Talaud islands, but people there were unaware of the difference and thought they were the Thoopterus nigrescens,” Ibnu said.
“We found compelling evidence to declare these bats as a new species of Thoopterus,” Ibnu said,
He added that the evidence was found after Yani, fellow scientists Siti Nuramaliati Prijono and Sigit Wiantoro and he collected about 102 adult specimens of Thoopterus from the islands of Sulawesi, Sula, Talaud, Wowoni and Buton to be included in their morphometric analyses.
After identifying that the specimen has a wider calcar and larger beak, skull and teeth compared to the Thoopterus nigrescens, Ibnu said the new species is granted its taxonomy status as Thoopterus suhaniahae.
“It is named after Suhaniah, the wife of Mohamad Yani who passed away on March 31, 2000, while Yani was conducting research in Lore Lindu National Park,” Ibnu said.
He added that the new fruit bat species is commonly found in primary forest at middle- and low-land altitudes of up to 1,200 meters above sea level in Sulawesi, while the Thoopterus nigrescens mainly inhabit the primary or secondary cacao and coffee plantation forests.
“This species of bat has the potential to pollinate a wide variety plants endemic to Sulawesi,” Ibnu said, adding that the survival of this species is endangered because of large-scale hunting and trapping of fruit bats in their habitats.
Indonesia is home to 225 of the roughly 1,240 species of insectivore and frugivore bats in the world, accounting for about 30 percent of all mammal species found in the country.