David Reed, curator of Mammals, and chair of Department of Natural History at the Florida Museum of Natural History, gave a presentation on “Bats of The Bahamas: An Update on Local Species and their Evolutionary History in the Islands.” Reed explained that he spent five to six years investigating bats on different islands to determine if bats were still on the islands and still healthy.
Relying on local knowledge to find caves, Reed said that bats were also found in abandoned homes. On his visit to the island, Reed said he would always try to engage students and pass on his knowledge of bat species.
Based on his research,10 species of bats are found in The Bahamas. Interestingly, scientists and researchers are still finding the same species of bats when they return to islands after initial findings in 1950s.
The six most common bats are Buffy Flower Bat, Waterhouse’s Leaf-Nosed Bat, Big Brown Bat, Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, and two different species of the Funnel-eared Bat. However, looking closely at genetics, Reed said there is a huge genetic gap across Little Bahama Bank and Great Bahama Bank.
Preliminary evidence was presented to demonstrate that the bats may have colonized the Bahamas from two different locations – Florida in the northern Bahamas and from the Greater Antilles in the southern Bahamas. In fact, DNA suggests that there is a one-million-year -old split between the two banks. He added that there is a barrier to gene flow right at the New Providence Channel.
“There is compelling evidence that we may have found a ring species in The Bahamas, which is uncommon and a very interesting phenomenon.”