Researchers at the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences in Brussels have discovered the remains of a new species of bats, baptized ‘Myotis Belgicus’, under a layer of sand dating back 33 million years ago at Boutersem in Flemish Brabant. The new species is part of the genus “Myotis” that includes 120 different types of bats on all continents except Antartica, the Flemish association Natuurpunt reported on Tuesday.
The sand layer dates back to the Oligocene era and is very rich in animal fossils. The researchers found the remains of 50 bats there, including some belonging to the new species, in six tonnes of sand. Remains of the bats were also found in Hoogbutsel and Hoeleden.
Myotis Belgicus was a big species and is the oldest known type of bat. The discovery shows that the origin of the group is at least seven million years older than previously thought.
It is extremely exceptional for a species like myotis to have survived so long, Natuurpunt said, recalling that the 20th Century was not beneficial to the many types of bats.
“In Flanders, three-quarters of them, including six types of Myotis, are on the red list of species threatened with extinction,” the organization said. “Considerable protection measures are necessary to provide a beautiful, sustainable future for these remarkable animals.”
The Brussels Times