Fruit bats in the Philippines revealed that they have a high genetic difference compared to bats found in the Southeast Asian regions, which could explain that they may be a new species of their own, a recent study showed.

A study published in the Philippine journal of Science revealed that five of the bat species native to the country show about six to seven percent genetic distance from bats found in other parts of the Southeast Asia.

According to the report, the long-tongued nectar bat, Geoffroy’s rousette, white-collared fruit bat, and the lesser shorter-nosed fruit bat have a high six percent genetic difference from specimens of the same species in the region.

Through a DNA bar coding technology during a six-year study, the researchers covered 19 of the 27 fruit bat species native to the Philippines.

“[Six to seven percent] means that it’s already a very different population,” lead researcher Adrian Luczon told Mongabay News. “Most of the species collected in the Philippines show barcode sequences that are unique,” the study said.

Researchers suggest that the Philippine pygmy fruit bat could either be a subspecies or an entirely new species, because it has different genetics in each island where it occurs in the Philippines. On the other hand, only the cave nectar bat and the small flying fox have similar genetics across the same species in the region.

“These bats are either forest or cave-dwelling, so if their habitats are threatened, it’s harder to locate them and get samples,” Luczon said.

There are 79 bat species listed in the Philippines. 38 are endemic and at least 12 are threatened. But Luczon explained they might be “more threatened than initially classified.”

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