Photograph courtesy Vu Dinh Thong

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The new species' facial protuberances may enhance echolocation.

Photograph courtesy Vu Dinh Thong

Strange New Leaf-Nosed Bat Found in Vietnam

Nose projections may help species catch prey.

A new species of bat whose face bristles with leaf-like protrusions has been discovered in Vietnam, a new study says.

When scientists first spotted Griffin's leaf-nosed bat in Chu Mom Ray National Park in 2008, the animal was almost mistaken for a known species, the great leaf-nosed bat, said Vu Dinh Thong, of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology in Hanoi.

Still, Vu Dinh and his team, thinking there was a chance the bat might in fact be new to science, used nets to catch some of the docile animals.

"While captured, some similar body-sized bats, i.e. [the] great leaf-nosed bat, reacts very angrily," he said by email. "But Griffin's leaf-nosed bat seems quite gentle."

The team did, however, have to contend with some vexing creatures—the "unbelievably high" number of leeches that take over Chu Mom Ray during rainy season, he said.

"It seems the leeches tried their best to capture us while we were trapping bats," Vu Dinh said.

"Fortunately, we won."

New Bat Still a Mystery

The team recorded the captured bats' sonar frequencies and took tissue samples from a few specimens.

The results revealed that the bat issues calls at a different frequency from the great leaf-nosed bat, which hinted that the newfound specimen is a new species. Genetic results confirmed the species—named Hipposideros griffini—is genetically distinct, according to the study, published recently in the Journal of Mammalogy.

So far, "absolutely little is known" about H. griffini, Vu Dinh said. Like all leaf-nosed bats, the newfound mammal has strange, leaf-like projections on its nose that may aid in echolocation—sending out sound waves and listening for echoes bouncing off objects, including prey.

The bat was also found in only two national parks, though further research may uncover more habitats for the creature, Vu Dinh said.

"This finding also suggested that Vietnam would be home to a highly diverse bat fauna, and that some species living within the country are not discovered."