Friday, 6 June 2014

A new species of Bat from the Maghreb region of North Africa.

Bats (Chiroptera) have long been considered to comprise about 25% of all Mammal species, but in recent years they have been shown to be considerably more diverse than previously thought, with a number of small, widespread Bat species being shown by genetic analysis to be made up of complexes of related but distinct cryptic species. Bats are morphologically conservative (a Bat must be able to fly and echolocate, both of which place constraints its morphology), and do not rely on visual clues to distinguish between species themselves (which often helps Human scientists working with other groups, such as Birds or Monkeys), so the presence of large numbers of cryptic Bat species is not really surprising.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 5 May 2014, a team of scientists lead by Sebastien Puechmaille of the School of Biological and Environmental Sciences at University College Dublin, the Sensory Ecology Group at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the Zoology Institute at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University describe a new species of Bat from the Maghreb region of North Africa.

The new species comes from well-known and documented populations from Morocco to Tunisia, which had previously been assigned to the species Miniopterus schreibersii (a name that is used to describe similar bats across southern Europe, North Africa and the Levant, but which are now thought likely to comprise a number of cryptic species). It is given the name Miniopterus maghrebensis, meaning ‘from the Maghreb’.

Specimen of Miniopterus maghrebensis from Kef Azigza Cave in the Ksar Tazougart of Morocco. AntonĂ­n Reiter in Puechmaille et al. (2014).

Miniopterus maghrebensis can be distinguished (with difficulty) from Miniopterus schreibersii by details of its skull morphology and its vocalizations (once scientists were looking for differentiating traits), however without the genetic evidence this would not have been seen as sufficient to describe it as a separate species, it would more likely have simply been seen as a regional variation within a widespread species.

See also…


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