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A new perspective on the zoogeography of the sibling mouse-eared bat species Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii: Morphological, genetical and ecological evidence
Journal of Zoology
The actual geographic distribution of the two sibling mouse-eared bat species Myotis myotis and Myotis blythii, which occur widely sympatrically in the western Palaearctic region, remains largely controversial. This concerns particularly the specific attribution of marginal populations from the Mediterranean islands and from adjacent areas of North Africa and Asia, which are morphologically intermediate between continental M. myotis and M. blythii from Europe. This study attempts to clarify this question by using four different approaches: cranial morphology, external morphology, genetics and trophic ecology. The three latter methods show unambiguously that North Africa, Malta, Sardinia and Corsica are presently inhabited by monospecific populations of M. myotis. In contrast, cranial morphometrics do not yield conclusive results. These results contradict all recent studies, which attribute North African and Maltese mouse-eared bats to M. blythii and consider that Sardinia and Corsica harbour sympatric populations of the two species. As concerns south-eastern populations, doubts are also expressed about the attribution of the subspecific taxon omari which may actually refer to M. myotis instead of M. blythii. Protein electrophoresis is presently the only absolute method available for determining M. myotis and M. blythii throughout their distribution ranges. However, species identification may be approached by relying on less sophisticated morphometrical methods as presented in this study. Species-specific habitat specializations are probably responsible for the differences observed between the geographic distributions of M. myotis and M. blythii, as they provide a logical groundwork for a coherent model of speciation for these two bat species.
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