Bats before bedtime

Scientists find new animal species in old rainforests

Deep in the heart of a small South American country called Guyana lies a protected forest. As night falls, you will find this tropical rainforest pulses with life. It is anything but quiet. The whistle of a bird called the screaming piha pierces the thick canopy of trees, as if competing with the chorus of crickets, cicadas and mosquitoes. Other strange creatures make themselves heard too. A sheep frog bleats while red howler monkeys spookily wail from the treetops. On this evening, it seems no one in the rainforest is sleeping — including the scientist making his way down a narrow path.

Night is a great time to collect animals. To catch flying bats, it is also the only time. That is why Burton Lim is at work in the dark here in this forested region known as Iwokrama (EE WOE kram ah). It’s part of the greater Amazon ecosystem.

Some people call Lim the Bat Man. He’s a curator of mammals at the Royal Ontario Museum, in Toronto, Canada. Tonight, he forges into the dark rainforest to look for bats. He’s wearing a bright headlamp and rubber boots. A machete hangs from his belt.

Lim has come to the Iwokrama Forest because it is a hotspot for bats. Eighty-six species of them, roughly half of all the bats found across the Amazon, call this roughly circular zone of protected land home. The area is only about the size of Delaware. By comparison, the United States and Canada together host only 47 bat species.

A region called the Guiana Shield includes the South American countries of Guyana, Suriname, French Guyana and parts of Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia. Much of the tropical rainforest in this area is undisturbed. Credit: Shadowxfox, Wikimedia Commons

Lim is on this expedition with a small team of scientists working with a conservation organization called Operation Wallacea. They’re here to study the rainforest’s large mammals, amphibians, birds, insects, reptiles and other animals. Luckily, a reporter for Science News for Kids is tagging along for part of the expedition. Exploring this richness of life, or biodiversity, lets scientists pinpoint areas that have rare or unique species. It also gives them clues useful in monitoring the health of this rainforest now — and in the future.

Continue reading this story at Science News for Kids.

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