York & North Yorkshire

'Yoda' fruit bat officially recognised as new species

New species of bat Image copyright Deb Wright
Image caption The hamamas tube-nosed fruit bat has been named after the Papuan word for 'happy'

A bat from the rainforests of Papua New Guinea affectionately known as 'Yoda' has been given official recognition as a new species.

The mammal gained its nickname due to a likeness to the Star Wars character, but a University of York biologist has named it the hamamas tube-nosed fruit bat after the Papuan word for 'happy'.

It has a rounder jaw than similar fruit bats, giving the impression of a grin.

The recognition follows a study of 3,000 specimens by a team of experts.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The type of fruit bat was originally nicknamed 'Yoda' due to a likeness to the Star Wars character

The bat's scientific name, Nyctimene wrightae, honours the conservationist Dr Deb Wright who worked in conservation in Papua New Guinea.

The University of York said the Nyctimene family of bat is characterised by its odd protruding tubular nostrils.

Image copyright University of York
Image caption The bat is part of the Nyctimene family, known for their distinctive nostrils

Dr Nancy Irwin, who named the bat and led a research group that visited 18 museums around the world, said: "Most of the morphological characteristics that separate this bat from other species are associated with a broader, rounder jaw which gives the appearance of a constant smile.

"Since most remote Papuans have never seen Star Wars, I thought it fitting to use a local name."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tube-nosed bats have been depicted on stamps in Papua New Guinea

Dr Irwin, a biologist at the university, said the 'happy' bat belonged to a group that had been known since 1769, but was not officially recognised.

"Now after 250 years this cryptic species, very difficult to tell apart from its cousins, can be identified and its ecology can be studied in the field," she added.

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