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Taxonomy, Systematics and Life Histories Program

The Bat Taxonomy, Systematic's, and Life Histories program aims to enhance our understanding of African bats through comprehensive taxonomic research, improve identification methods, and contribute to conservation efforts by providing accurate information on bat species biology and ecological requirements.

About the Bat Taxonomy, Systematic's, and Life Histories Program

Taxonomy (classification of organisms) and systematics (placing taxonomy in a phylogenetic context) are the foundational building block for biological research and conservation.  Life history information (e.g. diet, social and reproductive strategies, and longevity) is also important, as this information can be used to identify and prioritize a species risk of extinction, and prioritize conservation management action.

Much still remains to be done resolving the taxonomy and systematics of African bat species. For the majority of the bat species in Africa, very little is also known about their basic life histories.

Aims of the Bat Taxonomy, Systematic's, and Life Histories Program

  • Compile and update taxonomic information on bats in Africa.

Improve the taxonomic impediment.  As knowledge and information about African bat is scattered, it is the aim to bring this information together into a single source, and in doing so highlight gaps and conflicts in the knowledge base that are in need of further research.

  • Undertake taxonomic and systematic revisions.

New collections, recent research, and diverse data sets have indicated African bats still require considerable taxonomic and systematic research to provide the accurate identifications that underpins the interpretation of ecological and life history information and conservation efforts. Identify and prioritize which bats to focus on.

  • Develop robust classifications for identification in the field and historical museum collections.

As indicated above, one of the cornerstones of any biological research is the correct identification of the animals involved.  In the literature, a large amount of keys are available, but these might either be restricted to a specific area (e.g. country), or to a specific group of animals (e.g. fruit bats).  In a large number of cases, these keys are outdated, and do not represent the current status of the taxon involved (e.g. a taxon previously considered to include one species, might actually represent multiple species).  In other cases the number of specimens on which a key is based was limited, so that the total variation was not captured.

  • Review historical museum collections with revised keys to update distribution and range maps of revised species groups.


  • Compile life history information for various species from the literature and identify gaps in our understanding and knowledge.


  • Identify species where there is a fundamental need to understand some aspect of the biology that may be critical for the conservation of the species.


  • Gain a holistic view into the biology of individual species.


  • Use information gained to assist with the development of species, habitat plans and red listing for species.

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