A new species of bat, 16 million years old, has been discovered by an international team including the professors of the University of Valencia (UV)FRancisco J. Ruiz Sánchez Y Plini Montoya. The discovery was made in the paleontological site of Mas d’Antolino B, in the Castellón municipal area of Alcora, and corresponds to the lower Miocene of the Valencian Community.
The identification has been based on the study of isolated teeth. The study has been published in “Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh”, says the Valencian academic institution in a statement.
In addition to the two UV professors, attached to the Department of Botany and Geology, the team is made up of paleontologists Vicente D. Crespo of the Museum of La Plata (Argentina) and Paloma Sevilla from the Complutense University of Madrid.
The research refers to a set of fossil remains of bats from various sites in the municipality of Alcora, particularly near the district of Araia d’Alcora. These fossils, obtained in the framework of the excavations authorized and financed by the Ministry of Culturehave yielded some surprising data of great scientific interest.
For example, a new species is identified and the finding of a genus that was not known in the fossil state is described, which constitutes a true Lazarus taxon (that is, a taxon without a fossil record for a long period of time). In addition, the set of fossil bats made up a typically tropical association, more typical of an earlier geological time.
In the paleontological site of Mas d’Antolino B, known since 2008, numerous species of shrews, squirrels, hamsters, dormouses, crocodiles and other animals have also been recovered. These fauna, framed in an environment that could remind us of the current tropical forest, are dated to just over 16 million years, at the beginning of the period known as the Miocene, more specifically in the “age of mammals” called Aragonian.
The new species of bat has been “baptized” with the scientific name of Cuvierimops penalveri, dedicated to the paleontologist Enrique Penalver, a former UV professor, recently recognized as one of the best international scientists, recognized for his work on fossil insects, and who has carried out studies in the same area where the new findings were produced.
The new species belongs to the current family of bats known as free-tailed or molosids, but curiously it belongs to a genus that was supposed to be extinct ten million years ago. This family was dominant in Europe during the period known as Oligocene, between 33 and 23 million years ago, but at the beginning of the Miocene it had already been reduced to a few species, being represented today by a single species. Therefore, it is surprising that of the ten bats discovered in Araia d’Alcora, five are species belonging to this family of molosides.
Within the recovered collection also highlights a representative of the genus Chaerephon, whose only fossil remains found to date are only 10,000 years old, which gives this discovery the category of authentic Lazarus taxon. Other important bats found in Araia d’Alcora They are the moloside Rhizomops, which is the first time that it has been cited in the Lower Miocene, and the vespertilionid Submyotodon, found for the first time in a paleontological site on the Iberian Peninsula.
At this time, the environment of Araia would correspond to an area of tropical forest with areas of prairies, which would be located in the vicinity of a large lake that covered a good part of the current municipalities of l’Alcora, Ribesalbes and Fanzara. The tropical environment character of the area, during the lower Miocene epoch considered, is thus confirmed by the great abundance of molossid bats, which today are typical of areas with a tropical climate, such as Central and South America, Ethiopia, India or Australia. .
To obtain the fossil remains of small mammals, a laborious process of washing-sifting of several tons of sediment was carried out, as well as the triating of the abundant residue obtained at the end of this process. The study of the fossil tooth specimens was carried out using various techniques, including electron microscopy.