Researchers find rare bat species
Published 20/04/2010 | 12:02
A type of bat never seen before in the UK has been discovered visiting caves in the country, researchers have confirmed.
Alcathoe's bat, which is about the size of the end of a person's thumb, has been discovered in Yorkshire and Sussex.
The bats were found in woodland in Ryedale in the North York Moors National Park and in the South Downs.
The animals were identified by experts from the University of Leeds and University of Sheffield during a Europe-wide study of bat population ecology and genetics.
Alcathoe's bat was discovered in Greece in 2001 and is a native of continental Europe, but until now it was presumed that the English Channel acted as a barrier which had prevented it reaching the UK.
Alcathoe's bat may well be present in many other parts of the country, researchers said.
The research team believe the bat is actually resident in the UK but has not been spotted before because its appearance is so similar to other bat species.
Professor John Altringham, from the University of Leeds, said: "Over a third of the UK's native land mammal species are bats, making them by far the biggest contributor to our mammalian diversity.
"This discovery takes the number of bat species established in the UK from 16 to 17. Most of the bats were captured as they entered underground 'swarming' sites, where bats gather to mate before going into hibernation.
"A single swarming site, usually a cave or disused mine, can attract thousands of bats of 10 or more species. This makes them good places to look for rare species. Its presence at sites 350km apart suggests that Alcathoe's bat is a well-established, resident species."