Small midge style flies buzz around your head, landing whenever you’re not fast enough to swat them aside, and taking tiny bites out of your skin while you gather wild grown fruit that you found while exploring one of Brazil’s rainforest, something small, flies past your head. It’s so small and unobtrusive, you wouldn’t have even noticed it were it not for the clicking noise it makes as it flies.
Temporarily forgetting about the fruit, you watch as it makes an irregular loop around the very tree you’re standing beside and you realize that it’s chasing bugs. Transfixed, you watch as it captures one of the same flies that has been aggravating you since you first stepped into the forest. As it beats its wings and changes directions, the fly still caught between its tiny jaws, you notice there’s something different about this bat. Attached to its feet and thumbs are tiny, circular disks, so tiny you can barely see them.
As the bat disappears into the heart of the rainforest, you scratch your head and wonder, did that really happen? Or am I imagining the impossible.
The answer is yes, you did just see a bat with little disks on its wings and feet. The disks identify the bat was a member of the thyropteridae family, and it may have even been a De Vivo’ Disk-winged Bat Thyroptera devivoi.
How do you know if the bat you saw was a De Vivo’ Disk-winged Bat? It’s not easy. Partly because only a few members of the species have been studied, so current descriptions are based on just a few representatives, and partly because all of the bats in the thyropteridae family bear a striking resemblance to one another.
We do know the De Vivo’ Disk-winged Bats have a medium length coat that looks just a bit on the shaggy side and are a lovely shade of medium brown, with the belly being a shade lighter. The wings and tips of the ears are a darker shade of brown. Short dark hair covers the bat’s nasal bridge though the side is bare and a deep pink color. The underside of the bats fingers, legs, and tail are the same shade of pink, as are the lower half of the inner ears.
Thyroptera devivoi are one of the more recently discovered bat species, and while it’s nice that new bat species are still being found, the down side is that it takes an incredibly long time for anyone to gather data on the newly discovered species. The fact that the Thyroptera devivoi is very small and lives in the heart of the rainforest and roosts in curled up leaves rather than caves, makes finding and studying the species even more complicated. And so far, they’ve proven themselves to be quite adept at avoiding mist net capture.
De Vivo’ Disk-winged Bat specimens have been collected in both Brazil and Guyana, which has some researchers theorizing that they may actually be dealing with two different species, though a great more data must be collected in order to prove the hypothesis.
Learning more about the De Vivo’ Disk-winged Bat is a priority for some scientists, not only because they want to know if they’re dealing with one or two species, but also because there’s concern that the current fragmentation of the what appears to be the species natural habitat may already be resulting in a seriously depleted population. The sooner that researchers are able to gauge the economic and ecological impact of the species, the sooner they can take the steps needed to ensure its preservation. The challenge is figuring out a way to capture more specimens for study without stressing the species which could potentially lead to an even sharper decline in the population.
This species is listed as Data Deficient. It is a recently described species known from four specimens from two localities. It may be a composite of two species. The species’ habitat in the southern part of the range is being converted rapidly. The impact of this habitat conversion on the species is not yet known. Urgent studies are required on the species’ distribution, abundance, basic ecology and threats.
Again, I was unable to find any pictures of this species that I felt comfortable posting on this blog, probably because so few photographs exist. The good news is that an excellent photographer, Paul Colas, snapped a few, including a great one that provides an up-close look at the bat’s suction pads which are attached to its thumbs. You can view them by clicking on this link. I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
“Thyroptera devivoi.” ICUN Red List of Threatened Species. Web Accessed 5 November 2017. http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/136594/0
“Thyroptera devivoi.” Morcegos Dobrasil Bats from Brazil. Web. Accessed 5 November 2017. http://morcegosdobrasil.blogspot.com/2015/09/thyroptera-devivoi.html
Lim, Burton K.
Engstrom, Mark D.
“New Species of Disk-Winged Bat Thyroptera and Range Extension for T. discifera.” Jouranl of Mammalogy. 21 April 2006. Web. Accessed 5 November 2017. https://academic.oup.com/jmammal/article/87/2/238/867107/New-Species-of-Disk-Winged-Bat-Thyroptera-and