Bats: Origins of Australia's winged nightworkers


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Bats: Origins of Australia's winged nightworkers 

Moonlight reveals a prehistoric scene from the Miocene epoch, as ancestral ghost bats emerge for their nightly hunt, oblivious to a pair of Priscileo squabbling over a kangaroo carcass at the mouth of their den. Limestone caves at Riversleigh have provided a haven for cave dwellers for 25 million years, but they have also contributed to the demise of many others. Fossil bones of ancient pitfall-trap victims, such as large diprotodontids and kangaroos, are preserved in the Riversleigh deposits, along with the remains of predators such as thylacinids, marsupial lions and carnivorous bats that used the caves as lairs.

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In Australia’s remote northwest Queensland, long after the last dinosaur had bitten the dust, ancient bat poo was preserving the world’s oldest known fossilised sperm. The sperm belonged to ostracods, tiny crustaceans distantly related to yabbies, which lived during the early Miocene in the Riversleigh World Heritage Area, north-west of Mount Isa.

AAOD Journal Issue 12 (2014) – pages 66 to 77 
By Associate Professor Sue Hand

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