Mysterious Bat Skeleton


Six years ago, one of the oldest bat skeletons in the world was discovered in southwestern Wyoming. This bat lived about 52 million years ago. Scientists assumed it was a previously identified species from the genus Icaronycteris (ih-KAH-roh-NIK-tuh-rus). A genus is a group of closely related species.

Tim Rietbergen—an evolutionary biologist at the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in the Netherlands—saw pictures of the fossil online. He noticed that the specimen was unlike other prehistoric bats. So Rietbergen and his team compared the fossil with other specimens of ancient bats.

The scientists examined almost 700 traits, like claw size, skull size, teeth, and the ability to echolocate, or use sound to detect objects. They concluded that the skeleton belonged to a new species: Icaronycteris gunnelli. This discovery could help scientists better understand how bats evolved, or changed over time.

Skills Sheets (2)
Skills Sheets (2)
Lesson Plan (1)