November 15, 2013
Bat species of the Lonchophylla genus feed on nectar and differ from fruit-eating bats by their long, extensible, grooved tongues and their elongated skulls and muzzles. The two newly separated species are distinguished from each other by their fur color and ear shape, with the Cerrado species having a grayer hue and shorter, more rounded ears.
Peracchi's nectar bat (Lonchophylla peracchii). Photo credit: Marcelo Nogueira
Bokermann's nectar bat (Lonchophylla bokermanni). Photo credit: Lena Geise
The Cerrado is the second-largest type of ecosystem in Brazil, covering 21 percent of the country's land area, and is the world's most biologically rich woodland savannah. However, it faces an increasing risk of habitat destruction. Threatened by industrialized agriculture such as soybeans and corn, the grassland that once covered an area half the size of Europe is now decreasing by 1.1 percent every year. Following the agricultural restrictions implemented throughout the Amazon rainforest, many farmers turned to the Cerrado as a place for cattle ranching, pasture and charcoal production. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Cerrado became the forefront of Brazilian agriculture, contributing to Brazil's status as an agricultural super-power. Today, this savannah is used to grow nearly 60 percent of Brazil's soy crop and 25 percent of its grain.
"The Cerrado was pretty much intact until the 60s, when most of the relevant economic activity was the cattle ranching," Ricardo Machado of Conservation International told mongabay.com in 2007. "During the 70s when new technologies and new varieties of plants (corn, soybean, rice, wheat, eucalyptus, and grasses for livestock) were introduced the Cerrado became an important region for the Brazilian agribusiness. More and more native areas were cleared to be converted for planted pastures (using African grasses) or croplands. The natural vegetation removed was converted to charcoal to be used by the steel industry."
These threats pose significant risks to Bokermann's nectar bat, as well as the thousands of other species endemic to this grassland. The study recommends a multifaceted approach of research initiatives and policy changes in order to learn more about the imperilled mammal and safeguard its existence.
"As scientists, we need to apply efforts to convince policy makers about the singularity of Cerrado's animals and plants, and the importance of their conservation… Any conservation strategy must be a research base; and now we need field studies to try to uncover any additional information on distribution and natural history of L. bokermanni," said Moratelli, adding that "Subsequently, we need to investigate its genetic variability, abundance, home range and biological requirements. With a more complex framework we can develop a conservation plan for this species. If future research confirms that L. bokermanni is restricted to a small and unprotected area, part of the strategy may include the creation of a conservation area for the species."
Diamantina, Minas Gerais in Brazil - the study area. Photo by Lena Geise.
CITATION: Daniela Dias, Carlos Eduardo L. Esbérard and Ricardo Moratelli. A new species of Lonchophylla (Chiroptera, Phyllostomidae) from the Atlantic Forest of Southeastern Brazil, with comments on L. bokermanni. Zootaxa, 2013.
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