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Open Access Research article

Cryptic diversity of the bent-wing bat, Miniopterus schreibersii (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae), in Asia Minor

Andrzej Furman1*, Tomasz Postawa2, Tunç Öztunç1 and Emrah Çoraman1

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Environmental Sciences, Boğaziçi University, 34342 Istanbul, Turkey

2 Institute of Systematics and Evolution of Animals, Polish Academy of Science, Sławkowska 17, 31-016 Kraków, Poland

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BMC Evolutionary Biology 2010, 10:121  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-10-121

Published: 30 April 2010

Abstract

Background

Two or more species are cryptic, if they are morphologically similar, biologically distinct, and misclassified as a single species. Cryptic species complexes were recently discovered within many bat species and we suspect that the bent-wing bat, Miniopterus schreibersii, found in Europe, northern Africa, and Asia Minor, could also form such a complex. Populations of M. schreibersii decline in most of the European countries and the species is currently listed as Near Threatened in the IUCN Red List. Finding that M. schreibersii is not a single species, but a species complex, would have a considerable impact on its conservation strategies, as the abundance of each component taxon would be much smaller than the one estimated for the nominal species.

Results

Miniopterus schreibersii in Asia Minor consists of two genetically diverged lineages, which are reciprocally monophyletic on three mitochondrial DNA markers, have a diagnostic set of multilocus allele frequencies, and show a marked difference in their population structures. The lineages differ slightly in their size, wing shape, and echolocation call parameters. Although these differences are sufficient to discriminate between the lineages, they are not fully diagnostic in reference to individuals. We suggest that the lineages endured the major Northern Hemisphere glaciations in different glacial refugia and colonized Asia Minor after the last glacial maximum. The lineages are allopatric, which is neither delineated by the presence of geographical barriers nor associated with the specific climatic conditions, and which we link to competitive exclusion.

Conclusions

The distinctions between the lineages comply with most of the criteria required for species delineation imposed by various species concepts. Accordingly, we conclude that M. schreibersii in Asia Minor is represented by two cryptic species. Our results imply that the distributional range of the nominal species is almost exclusively limited to Europe and the coastal zones of Asia Minor. As populations of M. schreibersii seem to be much smaller than currently assumed, conservation strategies regarding this taxon need to be revised. The exact distributional range and the vulnerability of the suggested sister species to M. schreibersii is yet to be assessed.