The teeth and bones of the animal were found near St Bathans in Central Otago – and belonged to “a bat super-family that once spanned the southern landmasses of Australia, New Zealand, South America and possibly Antarctica,” according to study author Sue Hand from the University of New South Wales.
The creature is reported to have been almost three times the size of an average modern bat.
“This weird bat is among the most bizarre of all the fossils that we’ve found,” said Te Papa museum curator Alan Tennyson, a New Zealand member of the team which also included scientists from Australia, Britain and the United States.
“This new bat was a relative of New Zealand’s peculiar short-tailed bats, extinct Australian species, and the Americas’ vampire bats, suggesting that ground-dwelling forms of bat were more common in the past.”
The bat has been named ‘Vulcanops jennyworthyae’, after team member Jenny Worthy, who found the fossils, and Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and volcanoes – a reference to the historic Vulcan Hotel in St Bathans.