Two “Hidden” Bat Species Revealed in Haiti

by AMNH on

Research posts

Haiti has more bats than scientists previously known.

Haiti, one of the most environmentally imperiled countries in the tropics, has more bats than scientists previously realized, according to a Museum-led research team that recently conducted the most complete inventory of winged mammals there. Their study, recently published in the journal PLOS ONE, includes all known living and fossil records and bumps up the number of current bat species in Haiti from 18 to 20.

Extreme closeup of Greater Antillean bat's head, shows the details of his ears, eyes, nose and teeth.
One of Haiti’s 20 bat species, the Greater Antillean long-tongued bat (Monophyllus redmani).
© A. Soto-Centeno

“The Caribbean is among the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world, with bats being the most species-rich native mammals in the region,” said lead author Angelo Soto-Centeno, a research assistant in the Museum’s Mammalogy Department and Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. “But up until now, there has been very little work on Haiti’s living and fossil bat communities.”

Extreme closeup of Macleay's bat's head, shows the details of his ears, eyes, nose and teeth.
Macleay’s mustached bat (Pteronotus macleayii), one of the two previously unreported bats found in Haiti.
© A. Soto-Centeno

The new inventory, compiled by Soto-Centeno along with Nancy Simmons, chair of the Museum’s Department of Mammalogy, and David Steadman, a curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History, revealed that two previously unreported bats are living in Haiti: the Macleay’s mustached bat (Pteronotus macleayii) and the hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus).

Extreme closeup of a hoary bat's head, shows the details of his ears, eyes, nose and teeth.
Researchers found hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus) living in Haiti.
© D. Neal

The researchers also described Haiti’s bat diversity from 14 fossil sites that were not previously documented, including Trouing Jean Paul, a rich fossil deposit in a limestone sinkhole in the mountains of southeastern Haiti. The fossils from these sites, on loan from the Florida Museum of Natural History, were found to belong to 15 bat species that are still alive today and that first appeared on Hispaniola before the arrival of Europeans.

Man holds a live bat in his hand.
Museum research assistant Angelo Soto-Centeno holding a Waterhouse’s leaf-nosed bat (Macrotus waterhousii).
© N. Albury/National Museum of the Bahamas

The 15 species, the study’s authors estimate, have persisted for about 1,100 years. Researchers suggest that Haiti’s high-elevation forests might be vital to these bat species’ longevity, and caution against ongoing deforestation in the country. 

“Among the Caribbean islands, Haiti has one of the highest levels of habitat loss due to farming and logging, and has lost about 98 percent of its native forest cover,” Soto-Centeno said. “Understanding the effects of such large-scale human alterations of the environment is critical to predicting the future.”