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FW: Ancient bat rock art - Australia

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  • Cynthia Myers
    Forwarding a link to an article about ancient bat pictographs found in Australia, text is pasted below for those on low bandwidth -
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2008
      Forwarding a link to an article about ancient bat pictographs found in
      Australia, text is pasted below for those on low bandwidth -


      Cindy Myers
      Fallbrook CA
      Project Wildlife Bat Team

      -----Original Message-----

      Rock painting reveals unknown bat
      By Paul Rincon
      Science reporter, BBC News

      An ancient cave painting from northern Australia depicts a previously
      unknown species of large bat, researchers say.

      The team thinks the rock art from Australia's Kimberley region could
      date to the height of the last Ice Age - about 20-25,000 years ago.

      The painting depicts eight roosting fruit bats - also called flying

      They have features that do not match any Australian bats alive today,
      suggesting the art depicts a species that is now extinct.

      The findings have been published online in the scholarly journal
      The bats would not have lived in the same cave as the painting; they are
      depicted hanging on a vine, which indicates a lowland forest habitat.

      Jack Pettigrew, from the University of Queensland, and colleagues report
      that the eight bats in the painting have white markings on their faces.

      No present day Australian flying foxes possess these features.


      Dr Pettigrew and his team then considered whether the bat matched any
      living "megabats" from other parts of the world.

      Worldwide there are six such species, two in Africa and four living in
      islands off South-East Asia.

      The two African species have irregular white markings, unlike the

      One of the Asian species has a white patch above the eyes - which is
      inconsistent with the rock art; the other lacks the pale belly shown in
      the Kimberley painting.

      This left Styloctenium wallacei , from the island of Sulawesi,
      Stylocteniummindorensis from Mindoro in the Philippines.

      All are medium-sized with the distinctive white facial stripe shown in
      the cave art. All are fruit eaters living in lowland forest. Although
      Styloctenium have small white markings just above the eyes, these would
      not have been visible in profile, say the researchers.

      On balance, say the researchers, Styloctenium is the closest living
      genus to the ancient species in the painting.

      No fossil bats that could fit the bill are known from the local area.

      "Fossilisation is notoriously poor in the rocky tropical environment of
      the Kimberley," Dr Pettigrew told BBC News.

      Small fossil bats are known from Queensland's Riversleigh rocks, from
      which they can be extracted using acetic acid. But no flying fox remains
      have been found. The Queensland fossils are 30 million years older than
      the Kimberley flying fox.

      Stripey face

      The bat depictions were found on a sandstone wall protected by
      overhangs, near Kalumburu. They belong to a type of rock art known as

      This Bradshaw rock art was painted more than 17,500 years ago by
      sophisticated artists. The style is spread over an area belonging to
      several Aboriginal nations, each of which has a different name for the
      rock art.

      "The art site has been chosen so that it is not exposed to sun, has a
      flat wall for the art and a cap to protect the wall from the weather,"
      Dr Pettigrew said.

      There is considerable debate about whether past mammal extinctions in
      Australia were caused by human hunting pressure or by climate change.

      The researchers regard bats as too mobile to have been hunted to
      extinction by the culture that produced the cave art.

      The demise of the Kimberley white-faced megabats is more likely to have
      resulted from the climatic and ecological changes that followed the end
      of the Ice Age, say the scientists.

      Story from BBC NEWS:

      Published: 2008/12/04 23:09:42 GMT
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