Earth's newest country, South Sudan, is home to the planet's newest genus of bat.
The rare bat, a black and white spotted ball of fluff that resembles a Mogwai from the film "Gremlins," was spotted by researchers working in Bangangai Game Reserve.
"My attention was immediately drawn to the bat's strikingly beautiful and distinct pattern of spots and stripes. It was clearly a very extraordinary animal, one that I had never seen before," said DeeAnn Reeder, an associate professor of biology at Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, who was part of the team that made the discovery. "I knew the second I saw it that it was the find of a lifetime."
At first, researchers thought the bat belonged to a genus of bat discovered in nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1939 that had similar distinguishing markings, but after further examination Reeder did not think that the bat belonged in the existing genus.
"After careful analysis, it is clear that it doesn't belong in the genus that it's in right now," Reeder said in a press statement. "Its cranial characters, its wing characters, its size, the ears -- literally everything you look at doesn't fit. It's so unique that we need to create a new genus."
Reeder, along with her co-authors placed the bat in a new genus - Niumbaha superba. Niumbaha means "rare" or "unusual" in Zande, the language of the Azanse people in Western Equatoria State, where the bat was captured.
The newly found specimen is a rarity; only four others have ever been reported. It is the first to be discovered in South Sudan, which gained independence in 2011.
"Our discovery of this new genus of bat is an indicator of how diverse the area is and how much work remains," Reeder said. "Understanding and conserving biodiversity is critical in many ways. Knowing what species are present in an area allows for better management. When species are lost, ecosystem-level changes ensue. I'm convinced this area is one in which we need to continue to work."
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