Molecules, morphometrics and new fossils provide an integrated view of the evolutionary history of Rhinopomatidae (Mammalia: Chiroptera)
1 Department of Zoology, Charles University, Viničná 7, CZ-128 44 Praha 2, Czech Republic
2 Department of Zoology, National Museum (Natural History), Václavské námĕstí 68, CZ-115 79 Praha 1, Czech Republic
BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:165 doi:10.1186/1471-2148-7-165Published: 14 September 2007
The Rhinopomatidae, traditionally considered to be one of the most ancient chiropteran clades, remains one of the least known groups of Rhinolophoidea. No relevant fossil record is available for this family. Whereas there have been extensive radiations in related families Rhinolophidae and Hipposideridae, there are only a few species in the Rhinopomatidae and their phylogenetic relationship and status are not fully understood.
Here we present (a) a phylogenetic analysis based on a partial cytochrome b sequence, (b) new fossils from the Upper Miocene site Elaiochoria 2 (Chalkidiki, Greece), which represents the first appearance datum of the family based on the fossil record, and (c) discussion of the phylogeographic patterns in both molecular and morphological traits. We found deep divergences in the Rhinopoma hardwickii lineage, suggesting that the allopatric populations in (i) Iran and (ii) North Africa and the Middle East should have separate species status. The latter species (R. cystops) exhibits a shallow pattern of isolation by distance (separating the Middle East and the African populations) that contrasts with the pattern of geographic variation in the morphometrical traits. A deep genetic gap was also found in Rhinopoma muscatellum (Iran vs. Yemen). We found only minute genetic distance between R. microphyllum from the Levant and India, which fails to support the sub/species distinctness of the Indian form (R. microphyllum kinneari).
The mtDNA survey provided phylogenetic tree of the family Rhinopomatidae for the first time and revealed an unexpected diversification of the group both within R. hardwickii and R. muscatellum morphospecies. The paleobiogeographic scenario compiled in respect to molecular clock data suggests that the family originated in the region south of the Eocene Western Tethyan seaway or in India, and extended its range during the Early Miocene. The fossil record suggests a Miocene spread into the Mediterranean region, followed by a post-Miocene retreat. Morphological analysis compared with genetic data indicates considerable phenotypic plasticity in this group.