A Nuclear DNA Phylogenetic Perspective on the Evolution of Echolocation and Historical Biogeography of Extant Bats (Chiroptera)


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January 2005


Bats (Order Chiroptera), the only mammals capable of powered flight and sophisticated laryngeal echolocation, represent one of the most species-rich and ubiquitous orders of mammals. However, phylogenetic relationships within this group are poorly resolved. A robust evolutionary tree of Chiroptera is essential for evaluating the phylogeny of echolocation within Chiroptera, as well as for understanding their biogeographical history. We generated 4 kb of sequence data from portions of four novel nuclear intron markers for multiple representatives of 17 of the 18 recognized extant bat families, as well as the putative bat family Miniopteridae. Three echolocation-call characters were examined by mapping them onto the combined topology: (1) high-duty cycle versus low-duty cycle, (2) high-intensity versus low-intensity call emission, and (3) oral versus nasal emission. Echolocation seems to be highly convergent, and the mapping of echolocation-call design onto our phylogeny does not appear to resolve the question of whether echolocation had a single or two origins. Fossil taxa may also provide insight into the evolution of bats; we therefore evaluate 195 morphological characters in light of our nuclear DNA phylogeny. All but 24 of the morphological characters were found to be homoplasious when mapped onto the supermatrix topology, while the remaining characters provided insufficient information to reconstruct the placement of the fossil bat taxa with respect to extant families. However, a morphological synapomorphy characterizing the Rhinolophoidea was identified and is suggestive of a separate origin of echolocation in this clade. Dispersal-Vicariance analysis together with a relaxed Bayesian clock were used to evaluate possible biogeographic scenarios that could account for the current distribution pattern of extant bat families. Africa was reconstructed as the center of origin of modern-day bat families.


Chiroptera, Extant Bat, Diva, Molecular Clock, Laurasiatheria, Mammal, Phylogeny

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Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vol. 22, no. 9 (2005).