A Family Matter: Conclusive Resolution of the Taxonomic Position of the Long-Fingered Bats, Miniopterus
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The long-fingered bats (Miniopterus sp.) are among the most widely distributed mammals in the world. However, despite recent focus on the systematics of these bats, their taxonomic position has not been resolved. Traditionally, they are considered to be sole members of Miniopterinae, 1 of 5 subfamilies within the largest family of bats, the Vespertilionidae. However, this classification has increasingly been called into question. Miniopterines differ extensively from other vespertilionids in numerous aspects of morphology, embryology, immunology, and, most recently, genetics. Recent molecular studies have proposed that the miniopterines are sufficiently distinct from vespertilionids that Miniopterinae should be elevated to full familial status. However, controversy remains regarding the relationship of the putative family, Miniopteridae to existing Vespertilionidae and to the closely related free-tailed bats, the Molossidae. We report here the first conclusive analysis of the taxonomic position of Miniopterus relative to all other bat families. We generated one of the largest chiropteran data sets to date, incorporating approximately 11 kb of sequence data from 16 nuclear genes, from representatives of all bat families and 2 Miniopterus species. Our data confirm the distinctiveness of Miniopterus, and we support previous recommendations to elevate these bats to full familial status. We estimate that they diverged from all other bat species approximately 49-38 MYA, which is comparable to most other bat families. Furthermore, we find very strong support from all phylogenetic methods for a sister group relationship between Miniopteridae and Vespertilionidae. The Molossidae diverged from these lineages approximately 54-43 MYA and form a sister group to the Miniopteridae-Vespertilionidae clade.
author list (cited authors)
Miller-Butterworth, C. M., Murphy, W. J., O'Brien, S. J., Jacobs, D. S., Springer, M. S., & Teeling, E. C.