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Most bats were named during the 19th century by two people:

Wilhelm Peters at the Berlin Museum and Oldfield Thomas at the British Museum. In the mid-1800's Peters was about 100 years ahead of his time in terms of systematics. His descriptions easily could have been written in the 20th century. He was really a great scientist and between 1845 and 1885 he named a lot of the world's bats. About the time Peters quit, Oldfield Thomas picked up. He had a huge resource. The British Museum did a very good job of encouraging people in the Colonies to bring back natural history specimens. Oldfield Thomas was constantly naming not only new bats, but new rats, new marsupials, and new everything. It must have been rare during his career for a week to pass without a Thomas paper describing several new species. Unfortunately, it was too much for him and he committed suicide about 1925 when he was still atthe peak of his career.

People are still naming new bats, but not so much anymore. Most bat people have turned into molecular people or ecologists or community people. But there are still new bats out there to be found. On my first trip to Panama in 1957, I was at a jungle camp collecting birds and mammals and doing a very good job with everything but bats. I was trying to catch bats with a fine minnow seine. All I caught were birds and insects. No bats. An ornithologist friend visited me there and said, "Charles, you'll never catch bats in that." I said, "OK, so what else is new? I'm not catching bats!" He said, "I've got Japanese mist nets. I'll send you a couple in the next supply." He did, and I immediately began catching bats, and I've never stopped.


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