The Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus aegyptiacus (Chiroptera: Pteropodidae) in the Palaearctic: Geographical variation and taxonomic status

Petr Benda
Peter Vallo
Pavel Hulva


Two metrically defined subspecies have traditionally been recognised within the Palaearctic distribution range of the Egyptian fruit bat Rousettus aegyptiacus; the larger R. a. aegyptiacus in Egypt and the northern part of the Middle East and the smaller R. a. arabicus in the southern Middle East. An extensive material of R. aegyptiacus from all parts of this area, i.e. the Levant (incl. Turkey and Cyprus), Egypt (incl. Sinai), northern Sudan, Yemen, Oman, Iran, and Pakistan, as well as comparative samples from its sub-Saharan range, were tested using both morphological and genetic approaches in order to revise the species’ taxonomic status. The results indicated two possible processes, depending on the method used. Genetic analysis of the mitochondrial genome (nd1 and cytb) indicated low variation (< 2.0% of genetic distance) and lack of geographical structure while morphometric analysis indicated significant metric differences. Two basic size morphotypes were found within the Palaearctic range, with a rather mosaic-like geographical distribution and a lack of clear size distinction between the two categories, though intermediate types were detected. Thus, we suggest that all Palaearctic populations of R. aegyptiacus represent one form, the nominotypical subspecies, which is uniform in genetic traits but plastic in metric traits.