Batty discovery and more batty facts and fun this weekend | UK Wildlife

Our annual Bat Festival this year follows International Bat Night on 29-30 August. We’ll be teaming up with our partners Bat Conservation Trust and the London Bat Group to celebrate the wonderful world of bats. You can discover many fascinating batty facts including how to help bats in your garden, the diet of bats and how to make a flappy bat.

Photo of two children creating paper bats
Batty crafts at the Bat Festival in 2014
Photo of Louise showing specimens to and speaking with two visitors
Louise Tomsett, Curator of Mammals, showing specimens from the Museum collections

There will also be an opportunity to see some of the specimens from the Museum’s collection. As we wrote in our Going Batty post last year, curator Louise Tomsett will reveal more about the Museum’s collection of over 30,000 specimens of bats including the importance of their use in research and in the discovery of new species.

Which is very timely because a new species of horseshoe bat has just been described from one of our specimens held in the Museum collections.

This is very exciting news to share as the information has only recently been published in a paper, Description of a New Species of the Rhinolophus trifoliatus–Group (Chiroptera: Rhinolophidae) from Southeast Asia by Pipat Soisook of the Natural History Museum, Prince of Songkha University, Thailand and an international team of researchers including the Museum’s Roberto Portela Miguez, Curator of Mammals, and Dan Sykes, Assitant Micro-CT Lab Manager.

Photo of the specimen in its storage jar
The holotype of the newly described Rhinolophus francisi from the Museum collection

The new species, Francis’s woolly horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus francisi), is named after Charles M. Francis who collected the specimen from Sabah in 1983. The specimen was later incorporated to the collections of the Museum under the provisional name of Rhinolophus trifoliatus.
As Roberto explains:

“Recent field surveys by a network of researchers in Southeast Asian countries in forest habitats have provided additional material and data which led to the discovery of this new species. This, combined with a re-examination of the specimen collected from Sabah in 1983 by Charles M. Francis and others housed in museum collections world-wide, made a thorough comparative study possible.

Photo of a bat specimen with label
Specimen of the newly described Rhinolophus francisi collected from Sabah in 1983

“With a larger sample size and with acoustic and genetic data available to compare with other congeneric species, this specimen has proved to be distinct from other species within the group.

The specimen in the Museum collection is a female specimen that was collected at around 1,600 m on Gunung (Mount) Trus Madi in Sabah, Malaysia. The species is named in honour of Charles M. Francis for his great contributions to the study of Southeast Asian mammals and for collecting the type specimen of the species. Therefore, the proposed English common name is ‘Francis’s woolly horseshoe bat.”

Photo of a bat being held in the hand
A Francis’s woolly horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus francisi), exhibiting the distinctive horseshoe shaped nose-leaf of the Rhinolophus genus.

“Although new species for groups like insects, fishes and amphibians are discovered fairly regularly, new mammals are rare. This is a reminder of how much is still to be discovered, and how vital museum collections are to support the research needed to increase our understanding of the natural world.”

Thank you and congratulations to Roberto and the team!

There are over 1,100 bats worldwide and the horseshoe bats (the Rhinolophus species) are the lone genus in the horseshoe bat family. There are at least 87 horseshoe species currently recognised in the world.

In Britain we have two species of horseshoe bats, the greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) and the lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus hipposideros). Both species are rare in the British Isles and confined to south west England and Wales, with the lesser horseshoe is slightly more widespread.

Horseshoe bats are distinguished by large ears and a particular horseshoe-shaped nose-leaf (see the photos above) and their echolocation calls are emitted through their nose rather than the mouth as with other species. When roosting they hang with their wings folded around their body – another characteristic that distinguishes them from other species.

Photo showing the bat hanging from its perch
A greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) hanging in the pose that is distinctive of the genus, with wings wrapped around the body. Photo © Bat Conservation Trust

You can compare the echolocation sounds of different British bat species this weekend!

Join us at the Museum from 12.00 to 17.00 each day this weekend to discover more about the magical world of bats, including the species that forage in the Wildlife Garden, and our amazing collection from around the world.

Image of the listings poster for this year's Bat Festival
The 2015 Bat Festival listings