A specimen preserved in a jar of alcohol in The Natural History Museum, London has remained the only record of the Mortlock Islands flying fox, one of the least known bat species on the planet, for over 140 years. That is until now. A team of bat biologists led by Dr. Don Buden from the College of Micronesia has collected new information about this "forgotten" species, and studied it in the wild for the first time. The study is reported today in the open access journal ZooKeys.
The original London specimen was collected in 1870 from the remote Mortlock Islands, a series of low-lying atolls and part of the Federated States of Micronesia in the west-central Pacific Ocean. British biologist Oldfield Thomas used this specimen to name the species Pteropus phaeocephalus in 1882. However, information uncovered by Dr. Buden proves that a German naturalist, voyaging on a Russian Expedition, got there first.
"We found a report written by F.H. Kittlitz in 1836 describing his expedition to the Pacific Islands in the late 1820s. In that report he describes the flying-foxes of the Mortlocks and names them Pteropus pelagicus. This means the species was named long before Thomas's description in 1882" said Buden.
According to internationally established rules for naming animals, the earliest available scientific name of a species must be officially adopted, so the Mortlock Islands flying fox is now correctly known as Pteropus pelagicus. Not only does Kittlitz correctly deserve credit for the discovery of the species, 50 years earlier than previously thought, but he can also be now credited for the "new" name. Furthermore, Buden and colleagues demonstrated that flying foxes from the nearby islands of Chuuk Lagoon, long regarded as a separate species (Pteropus insularis), are also best rega
|Contact: Donald W. Buden|