Cryptic diversity in European bats


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Different species of bat can be morphologically very similar. In order to estimate the amount of cryptic diversity among European bats we screened the intra– and interspecific genetic variation in 26 European vespertilionid bat species. We sequenced the DNA of subunit 1 of the mitochondrial protein NADH dehydrogenase (ND1) from several individuals of a species, which were sampled in a variety of geographical regions. A phylogeny based on the mitochondrial (mt) DNA data is in good agreement with the current classification in the family. Highly divergent mitochondrial lineages were found in two taxa, which differed in at least 11% of their ND1 sequence. The two mtDNA lineages in Plecotus austriacus correlated with the two subspecies Plecotus austriacus austriacus and Plecotus austriacus kolombatovici. The two mtDNA lineages in Myotis mystacinus were partitioned among two morphotypes. The evidence for two new bat species within Europe is discussed. Convergent adaptive evolution might have contributed to the morphological similarity among distantly related species if they occupy similar ecological niches. Closely related species may differ in their ecology but not necessarily in their morphology. On the other hand, two morphologically clearly different species (Eptesicus serotinus and Eptesicus nilssonii) were found to be genetically very similar. Neither morphological nor mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis alone can be guaranteed to identify species.


Vespertilionidae, Bats -- Diversity, Europe

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Volume 268, Issue 1478