Molecular Systematics of Bats of the Genus Myotis (Vespertilionidae) Suggests Deterministic Ecomorphological Convergences


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Publication Date

December 2001


Based on extensive phenetic analyses, bats of the genus Myotis have been classically subdivided into four major subgenera each of which comprise many species with similar morphological and ecological adaptations. Each subgenus thus corresponds to a distinct “ecomorph” encompassing bat species exploiting their environment in a similar fashion. As three of these subgenera are cosmopolitan, regional species assemblages of Myotis usually include sympatric representatives of each ecomorph. If species within these ecomorphs are monophyletic, such assemblages would suggest extensive secondary dispersal across geographic areas. Conversely, these ecomorphological adaptations may have evolved independently through deterministic processes, such as adaptive radiation. In this case, phylogenetic reconstructions are not expected to sort species of the same ecomorph into monophyletic clades. To test these predictions, we reconstructed the phylogenetic history of 13 American, 11 Palaearctic, and 6 other Myotis species, using sequence data obtained from nearly 2 kb of mitochondrial genes (cytochrome b and nd1). Separate or combined analyses of these sequences clearly demonstrate the existence of several pairs of morphologically very similar species (i.e., sibling species) which are phylogenetically not closely related. None of the three tested subgenera constitute monophyletic units. For instance, Nearctic and Neotropical species currently classified into the three subgenera were clustered in a single, well-supported monophyletic clade. These species thus evolved independently of their ecological equivalents from the Palaearctic region. Independent adaptive radiations among species of the genus Myotis therefore produced strikingly similar evolutionary solutions in different parts of the world. Furthermore, all phylogenetic reconstructions based on mtDNA strongly supported the existence of an unsuspected monophyletic clade which included all assayed New World species plus M. brandtii (from the Palaearctic Region). This “American”


Myotis, Chiroptera, Cytochrome B, Nd1, Adaptive Radiations, Phylogeny, Fossils

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Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, Vol. 21, no. 3.