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Two new dog-faced bats discovered in Panama and Ecuador

  • Researchers have described two new species of dog-faced bats: the Freeman’s dog-faced bat (Cynomops freemani) from Panama and the Waorani dog-faced bat (Cynomops tonkigui) from Ecuador.
  • The Freeman’s dog-faced bat was named after bat specialist Patricia Freeman.
  • The species name of the Waorani dog-faced bat, “tonkigui,” honors the Waorani tribe of Ecuador that lives near one of the locations where the bats were captured, the study says.

For the past few decades, scientists have known of six species of fast-flying, insect-eating bats with dog-like faces — collectively called the dog-faced bats.

Now, a group of researchers has described two more species of dog-faced bats in a new study published in Mammalian Biology: the Freeman’s dog-faced bat (Cynomops freemani) from Panama and the Waorani dog-faced bat (Cynomops tonkigui) from Ecuador.

Researchers from the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) first came across the Freeman’s dog-faced bat inside abandoned wooden houses in the town of Gamboa in 2012. Over the course of five nights, the team captured 56 bats using specialized mist nets, took their measurements, then released them. They also recorded the bats’ calls and collected one individual that had died.

At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Washington, D.C, the scientists compared their field observations, including DNA, sound recordings and body measurements of the bats, with existing museum collections from across the Americas and Europe, and confirmed that the bat was new to science. They named it Freeman’s dog-faced bat after Patricia Freeman, a bat specialist currently at the University of Nebraska State Museum of Natural History.

“We were very lucky to catch several different individuals of this species in mist nets and to record their calls,” Thomas Sattler, who was one of the team members in Panama at the time of collection, told Smithsonian Insider. “Knowing their species-specific echolocation calls may make it possible to find them again in the future with a bat detector — without catching them—and to find out more about their distribution and habitat preferences.”

In fact, some STRI staff recently spotted pregnant females of the species in Gamboa in August 2017, and some young individuals the following month.

Thomas Sattler holds two Freeman’s dog-faced bats discovered in Gamboa, Panama. Photo: Elias Bader

The Smithsonian team described the second new species — the slightly smaller Waorani dog-faced bat — from individuals collected by other naturalists and researchers from Ecuador’s rainforests. The team did not have any call recordings of the bats, so they confirmed its status by comparing the bats’ physical measurements and DNA with those of other museum specimens collected in Ecuador.

“Identifying two mammal species new to science is extremely exciting,” Ligiane Moras, lead author of the study who did part of this work as a fellow at NMNH, said in a statement.

Rachel Page of STRI added: “Molecular tools combined with meticulous morphological measurements are opening new doors to the diversity of this poorly understood group. This discovery begs the question — what other new species are there, right under our very noses? What new diversity is yet to be uncovered?”

A Waorani dog-faced bat. Photo by Diego Tirira.
The newly described Freeman’s dog-faced bat. Photo by Thomas Sattler.


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