Nuclear gene sequences confirm an ancient link between New Zealand’s short-tailed bat and South American noctilionoid bats Academic Article uri icon


  • Molecular and morphological hypotheses disagree on the phylogenetic position of New Zealand's short-tailed bat Mystacina tuberculata. Most morphological analyses place Mystacina in the superfamily Vespertilionoidea, whereas molecular studies unite Mystacina with the Neotropical noctilionoids and imply a shared Gondwanan history. To date, competing hypotheses for the placement of Mystacina have not been addressed with a large concatenation of nuclear protein sequences. We investigated this problem using 7.1kb of nuclear sequence data that included segments from five nuclear protein-coding genes for representatives of 14 bat families and six laurasiatherian outgroups. We employed the Thorne/Kishino method of molecular dating, allowing for simultaneous constraints from the fossil record and varying rates of molecular evolution on different branches on the phylogenetic tree, to estimate basal divergence times within key chiropteran clades. Maximum likelihood, minimum evolution, maximum parsimony, and Bayesian posterior probabilities all provide robust support for the association of Mystacina with the South American noctilionoids. The basal divergence within Chiroptera was estimated at 67mya and the mystacinid/noctilionoid split was calculated at 47mya. Although the mystacinid lineage is too young to have originated in New Zealand before it split from the other Gondwanan landmasses (80mya), the exact geographic origin of these lineages is still uncertain and will not be answered until more fossils are found. It is most probable that Mystacina dispersed from Australia to New Zealand while other noctilionoid bats either remained in or dispersed to South America.

author list (cited authors)

  • Teeling, E. C., Madsen, O., Murphy, W. J., Springer, M. S., & O'Brien, S. J.

citation count

  • 51

complete list of authors

  • Teeling, Emma C||Madsen, Ole||Murphy, William J||Springer, Mark S||O'Brien, Stephen J

publication date

  • August 2003