A team of researchers described the two bat species from several sets of fossilized jawbones and teeth unearthed in the Sahara. The findings, reported Feb. 4 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, represent the first formal description of the family in the fossil record and show the sucker-footed bat family to be at least 36 million years older than previously known.
“We’ve assumed for a long time that they were an ancient lineage based on DNA sequence studies that have placed them close to very old groups in the bat family tree,” said Nancy Simmons, co-author and curator-in-charge of the American Museum of Natural History’s Mammalogy Department. But until now, scientists lacked any fossil evidence to confirm it.
It’s impossible to know from the fossils if the extinct species had already evolved their characteristic sucker-feet, but the teeth shed light on another aspect of bat evolution. The presence of sucker-footed bats in Africa at least 37 million years ago supports the theory that this family is one of the most primitive members of a lineage that now dominates South America.
The find provides support for the view that the Noctilionoidea superfamily started out in what is now Africa.
What exactly does “primitive” mean, by the way? In this context? Is it a term that should be retired?
File under: Earlier than thought. Order more disk space today.
File with: Turtle shells moved back to 260 million years ago
and “Fossil tracks from animal 585 mya, 30 million years earlier than thought,” also
“That Cambrian rabbit takes a bow, and offers his audience an irrefutability package”
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