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Scientists discover at least four new species of African leaf-nosed bats

Researchers have discovered at least four new species of African leaf-nosed-bats - cousins of the horseshoe bat that has become known as the host for the new coronavirus.

The new bat species were announced in a study published in a special issue of the journal ZooKeys, which focused on the current pandemic causing havoc in the human population.

The leaf-nosed bats do not carry a disease that is problematic today, but it is uncertain whether this will always be the case. Leaf-nosed bats are capable of carrying coronavirus, but the strains they host do not affect humans right now.

There are more than 1,400 species of bats, and a quarter of them have only been recognised by scientists in the last 15 years.

The number of species of African leaf-nosed-bats is still unknown.

Image credit: CNN

This recent discovery is so important to human society as it is necessary we learn as much as we can about bats - identifying individual species of bats and understanding more about them is crucial to providing a foundation for information related to the spread of diseases like COVID-19.

COVID-19 originated in a horseshoe bat in China, of which there are 25-30 known species in China. Unfortunately, scientists are yet to determine which species were involved in the outbreak, making it crucial that we learn as much as we can about them and their relatives, such as the leaf-nosed bat.

Although their role in humans' lives is poorly understood, bats play a huge role in many environments around the world. Bats are partly, and in some cases wholly, responsible for the pollination of certain crops, while other bats also help control pests by eating insects.

Bats have gained a recent reputation as dirty or covered in viruses. This is incorrect. Many things around us contain viruses, even the pretty roses that grow in our gardens, it is just that bats seem especially good at passing them on to us.

Bats do not seem to suffer the way humans do under the viruses they carry and have passed on to us mostly because of their incredible strength arising from their ability to fly, their high metabolism, self-repairing DNA, and hearty immune systems.

Hopefully, the new discoveries of the African leaf-nosed bats will lead to useful information on how human society can better prepare against the potential for these virus vectors to spread deadly diseases in a post-COVID-19 world.


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