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Prague, Czech Republic

Vallo P.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic | Benda P.,National Museum Natural History | Benda P.,Charles University | Reiter A.,South Moravian Museum in Znojmo
African Zoology

The yellow-bellied Scotophilus dinganii is the only African house bat species reported to occur in the Arabian Peninsula. Formerly, the Arabian house bats were referred to similar-looking white-bellied S. leucogaster, which differs from S. dinganii mainly by the colour of ventral pelage. We reassessed the taxonomic status of house bats from southwestern Yemen using genetic and morphological analyses. The Yemeni specimens clustered within two distantly related mitochondrial lineages of African Scotophilus: East African S. aff. dinganii, which is a paraphyletic group to S. dinganii s.str. from South Africa, and West African S. leucogaster. This taxonomic assignation was based on published sequences of reference museum specimens. Differences in external and cranial measurements also indicated the presence of two distinct taxa in Yemen. The Yemeni and comparative Ethiopian populations of S. aff. dinganii showed close morphological similarity to the type specimen of S. nigrita colias from Kenya. Because the Yemeni and Ethiopian yellow-bellied house bats cannot be synonymized with S. dinganii, the designation S. colias is tentatively suggested for this particular East African and Yemeni lineage of the S. dinganii complex. However, final correspondence of this name with the respective populations or applicability of some of other available names must yet be explored. Based on environmental differences of the Yemeni localities of origin, S. colias appears to be ecologically delimited to mountainous habitats, while S. leucogaster to harsh lowland deserts. This is consistent with known habitats of African populations of both species. Source

Benda P.,National Museum Natural History | Benda P.,Charles University | Gvozdik V.,National Museum Natural History | Gvozdik V.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Acta Chiropterologica

Two alternative opinions on geographic variation and taxonomy of the genus Otonycteris are available in the literature; (1) the genus is rather invariable and includes one monotypic species, or (2) local populations of the genus are rather diverse and create up to five subspecies and/or represent a complex of more species. We analysed a relatively extensive material of Otonycteris from all essential parts of its distribution range, using both morphological and molecular genetic approaches to revise taxonomic status of the genus. Results of our analysis suggest rather manifold taxonomic arrangement of the genus. Morphological comparisons of cranial and bacular characters revealed three distinct geographically separated morphotypes in the set of examined bats; (1) in North Africa and in the western part of the Middle East (Levant and Mesopotamia), (2) in the eastern part of the Middle East (E Arabia and Iran) and (3) in Central Asia (incl. NE Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan). Molecular genetic comparisons of two mitochondrial genes revealed two deeply separated clades differing in uncorrected p-distances at > 11.8% (cytochrome b) and > 9.3% (ND1), respectively. These clades correspond with two groups of morphotypes, (1+2) and (3), and we therefore regard the respective populations as two separate species, O. hemprichii and O. leucophaea. Within the species rank of O. hemprichii sensu stricto, three sublineages were found, each tentatively considered to be a separate subspecies. © Museum and Institute of Zoology PAS. Source

Benda P.,National Museum Natural History | Benda P.,Charles University | Vallo P.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic | Reiter A.,Charles University
Acta Chiropterologica

Two species are currently recognised within the genus Asellia, a typical inhabitant of arid areas of northern Africa and south-western Asia. Most of the distribution range of the genus is covered by Asellia tridens, while the other species, A. patrizii, is restricted to Ethiopia, Eritrea and several Red Sea islands. We analysed the morphological variation in an extensive set of Asellia samples covering the range of the genus, including most of the available type material. In a representative subset of samples, we employed molecular genetic analysis to infer the phylogenetic relationships within the broadly distributed A. tridens. Morphological comparisons revealed four distinct morphotypes. Except for the endemic A. patrizii, almost all African Asellia were found to belong to the same morphotype as most of the Middle Eastern specimens. This morphotype was unambiguously identified as A. tridens. Two other morphotypes of tentative A. tridens were further recognised based on skull shape differences; one in the southern Arabian region of Dhofar, the other in Socotra and Somalia. Phylogenetic analysis of complete sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene yielded three main monophyletic groups, which corresponded to the morphotypes revealed for A. tridens. Significant genetic divergences reaching over 5% and 12%, respectively, were discovered between them. Based on the morphological and molecular data obtained, we propose a split of the current A. tridens into three separate species: A. tridens in northern Africa and most of the Middle East, A. italosomalica in Socotra and Somalia, and Asellia sp. nov. in southern Arabia. Molecular dating, along with the available paleontological information and geological history of the Arabian Peninsula, supports an Arabian origin of the contemporary Asellia. While profound divergence of the Socotran form may be linked to the split of Socotra from the southern Arabian coast in the Middle Miocene, the low sequence variation of Asellia in most of Africa and the Middle East suggests a relatively recent colonisation of this vast area during the Pleistocene. The newly described form from southern Arabia most likely represents a relic of aridisation during the Miocene-Pliocene transition. © Museum and Institute of Zoology PAS. Source

Vallo P.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic | Benda P.,National Museum Natural History | Benda P.,Charles University | Cerveny J.,Czech University of Life Sciences | Koubek P.,Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Zoologica Scripta

Hybridization between species may result introgression of mitochondrial DNA from one species to another. Phylogenetic inference, therefore, may not recover true evolutionary relationships. bats, there are only a few reported cases of introgressive hybridization. House bats are a genus with obscure phylogeny and taxonomy, caused mainly by morphological similarity. We undertook a detailed analysis of small-sized West African house bats (Scotophilus), tentatively identified as S. nigritellus, to clarify relationships between two sympatric colour forms. These forms were recovered paraphyletic position to each other both mitochondrial and nuclear phylogenies, signifying that they are two distinct species. While the yellow-bellied form could be assigned beyond doubt to S. nigritellus s. str., the white-bellied form may be an as yet undescribed species. Moreover, the white-bellied form clustered as a sister mitochondrial lineage to another species, Scotophilus leucogaster. These sister lineages differed by only 2.6-2.8% sequence divergence, which lies withthe intraspecific range for this genus. Two nuclear markers, however, contradicted the sister relationship, showing them instead to be distantly related. The apparent conflict between the mitochondrial and nuclear signals suggests that past hybridization may have occurred between these morphologically distinct species. © 2012 The Authors Zoologica Scripta © 2012 The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. Source

Andreas M.,Silva Tarouca Research Institute for Landscape and Ornamental Gardening | Reiter A.,South Moravian Museum Znojmo | Reiter A.,Charles University | Benda P.,National Museum Natural History | Benda P.,Charles University
Acta Chiropterologica

The objective of the study was to describe the diet composition of western barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus), its seasonal changes and main factors determining trophic niche of the species. Barbastelle bat feeds predominantly on moths and has the narrowest trophic niche within the entire studied bat community. A comparison of the food supply and the diet composition showed selectivity for larger species of moths. An increasing of absolute abundance of preferred larger moths within summer is accompanied with narrowing of bat's trophic niche. This pattern corresponds well with the conclusions of optimal foraging theory. Larger moths are preferred even in a period of their low relative abundance within a peak of abundance of smaller species. There are no abrupt seasonal changes in the bat's diet within season, but the narrow pool of available food supply seems to determine the trophic niche breadth within low prey diversity periods in early spring and late autumn. The exception is a late autumn period; most probably due to a change in food supply are preferred larger moths replaced in the diet by smaller individuals. Most of the moths' species cease to fly and chiefly only smaller moth species are flying and attracted by UV light. Larger moths still occur at studied area at that time, but they display minimal flying activities and they are detected using vegetation beating and sweeping. Furthermore, syntopic motheating foliage gleaner (Plecotus auritus) still feeds on larger moths at that time. This may indicate that the change in the diet of B. barbastellus is a consequence of poor or absent gleaning abilities of this species, which is not able to pick up the prey from the surface as P. auritus. Different hunting strategies are probably efficient trophic niche partitioning mechanisms reducing interspecific competition between these syntopic moth eating bats. © 2012 Museum and Institute of Zoology PAS. Source

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