Washington, March 7 : Researchers have discovered six new species of ancient bats in Egypt that date back to the Eocene epoch, 56 million to 34 million years ago.
The experts behind the find say that they made this discovery while analysing 33 fossils, including teeth and jawbones, which had been unearthed over a period of decades in El Faiyum, an oasis region 50 miles southwest of Cairo.
"It is (a) surprising diversity of new forms-we didn't expect to find nearly as many new kinds of bats as we found in the sample," National Geographic quoted Gregg F. Gunnell, a palaeontologist at the University of Michigan who led the study.
The researcher revealed that the new species were quite similar to some of the present-day microbats, which use sonar waves to navigate and hunt in a process called echolocation.
Among the newly discovered species was a previously unknown "giant" version of the microbat family, which makes it perhaps the largest of the echolocating species yet found.
"They are all pretty primitive members of modern groups, which is a little bit odd. Generally in (this period in the fossil record), you tend to (find) archaic bats but nothing very modern, ... but these animals are all members of living families," Gunnell said.
He further said that the similarity across species was an indication that the modern-day bats evolved on the African continent rather than in the Northern Hemisphere, as many researchers theorize.
"In a sense, Africa is sort of a crucible for the evolution of the modern bats," Gunnell said.
The names of the new species will be revealed in an article in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.