Archive for Monday, September 24, 2007

KU student in demand after furry find

Jake Esselstyn, a Kansas University graduate student in mammalogy, discovered and named a new fruit bat in the Philippines. Esselstyn, who named the bat the "flying fox," is the first person in decades to discover a new species of bat.

Jake Esselstyn, a Kansas University graduate student in mammalogy, discovered and named a new fruit bat in the Philippines. Esselstyn, who named the bat the "flying fox," is the first person in decades to discover a new species of bat.

September 24, 2007


Bat, man

Jacob Esselstyn describes the new species of bat he discovered. Enlarge video

Jake Esselstyn

Jake Esselstyn

Jake Esselstyn's phone rings a lot these days, thanks to a new species of bat he discovered in the Philippines.

"I guess I'm getting my 15 minutes of fame," the 33-year-old Kansas University graduate student said with a chuckle recently as he sat in his Dyche Hall office.

Esselstyn's discovery has been named the "flying fox bat" because its head looks like that of, well, a tiny fox. It is a type of fruit bat, he said. It has orange fur and white stripes on the front of its head.

Esselstyn found the bat in 2006 during a research trip on the Philippines' Mindoro island. He was with a Filipino scientist, looking for bats and shrews. Shrews are 2- or 3-inch long mammals with pointy snouts.

But the fox bat that became trapped in a net garnered the most attention. Esselstyn spent the past year studying the bat specimen and comparing it to others before going public about the discovery. He wrote an article about it, which recently appeared in the "Journal of Mammalogy." The Filipino government also made a public announcement about the bat, and there were stories in that country's newspapers.

In the United States, other media also have contacted Esselstyn. A short story appeared in the online "National Geographic News." Next week, Time magazine's "Time for Kids" plans to do an interview, he said.

The publicity surprised Esselstyn, an Oregon native who is working on his doctorate in biology. New species of animals, usually small lizards and frogs, are discovered frequently and get little mainstream media publicity, he said.

"I think this one has gotten so much press because it is so good looking," Esselstyn said. "Most new specimens of mammals are small, brown-looking things that don't attract much attention."

A total of four specimens of the bat were eventually obtained and are kept in a preservative at KU. Two of the specimens will be returned to the Philippines and go to the National Museum in Manila, Esselstyn said.

Esselstyn returned to Mindoro earlier this year but did not find any more of the fox bats. He thinks there are more of them and there could be some in other areas of Asia.

While the fox bat wasn't known to the scientific world, Mindoro residents had seen them. One local guide described the unusual bat to Esselstyn. Esselstyn said he remained skeptical until he saw the bat in the net, which had been set up to catch specimens.

"He was very close on the description," Esselstyn said of the guide. "As soon as we saw it, we knew it was what he was talking about."


Dominic_Sova 10 years ago

IF there's four of them to kill, there's certainly a lot more than that.

The odds of two people catching the last four of any living creature make it highly improbable. I'm sure the bats are in much more danger from pollution, etc., than scientists.



Katie Van Blaricum 10 years ago

uh, yeah. That kind of sucks that they killed the first four they found. Given that they hadn't been "discovered" yet, it's pretty fair to assume that they are highly endangered. Way to to.

aeroscout17 10 years ago

Reminds me of the Audubon Society, the organization that is for preservation/protection of birds. It is named after the famous artist (ornithologist?) John James Audubon. Did a great job of painting pictures of birds, but killed them first so that he could have an immobile subject. Can we have it both ways?

gypsy10 10 years ago

Bright lights, kill the beautiful little creatures all in the name of science, go figure! Pathetic.

OldEnuf2BYurDad 10 years ago

I'd have called it the 'Possum Bat.

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years ago

Oh, sure, they call 'em "fox" bats, but we know better... that's a coyote bat if ever I saw one. You really want those things dive bombing the kiddie pool?

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years ago

The article refers to the "flying fox bat"-as opposed to the "ambulating" fox bat. (Talk about yer little ankle biters....)

Fatty_McButterpants 10 years ago

How about "Bat-ter off not killed and put in preservative" bat?

Confrontation 10 years ago

Fatty, don't be such a bat-tle-axe!

Centrist 10 years ago

Umm ... the "flying fox" already existed:

Perhaps a better choice of name?

jhawk_pirate 10 years ago

i dont think you can transport live animals into the US ... i'm pretty sure they managed to keep them alive back in the Philippines. so stop acting like 'animal activists' when u don't know anything about scientific work.

Tychoman 10 years ago

That bat in the top picture looks thrilled...

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