Kris Helgen shared with us a new paper evaluating the taxonomic relationships between flying foxes of the Mortlock Islands, a chain of 100 atoll islands, in Micronesia. The authors, led by Don Buden, resurrect the name Pteropus pelagicus to replace P. phaeocephalus and unite P. pelagicus with P. insularis. From field observations, they estimate that the population size in 2004 was only somewhere between 925-1200 bats, and that most individuals roost alone or in small groups. Interestingly, the authors suggest that the main threat to the species may be rising sea levels associated with climate change. Although its unclear whether entire atolls will be lost, salinity changes may reduce the availability of the bats’ major food source – breadfruit. The paper includes a wealth of information on the recent history of P. pelagicus on the Mortlock Islands, including a wonderful folktale explaining the limited consumption of bats on the islands.
Buden DW, Helgen KM, Wiles GJ (2013) Taxonomy, distribution, and natural history of flying foxes (Chiroptera, Pteropodidae) in the Mortlock Islands and Chuuk State, Caroline Islands. ZooKeys 345: 97–135. doi: 10.3897/zookeys.345.5840