Evin, Allowen and Baylac, Michel and Ruedi, Manuel and Mucedda, Mauro and Pons, Jean Marc (2008) Taxonomy, skull diversity and evolution in a species complex of Myotis (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae): a geometric morphometric appraisal. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, Vol. 95 (3), p. 529-538. eISSN 1095-8312. Article.
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Phylogenetic relationships between taxa are not necessarily reflected by morphological data due to widespread homoplasy and convergence. However, combining morphological and molecular data provides insights into the evolution of biological forms and into the potential factors involved. Here we focus on a complex of three taxa of bats with unclear taxonomic affinities: Myotis myotis, Myotis blythii and Myotis punicus. Traditional morphometric methods failed to separate them, whereas recent molecular-based studies suggested that they constitute separate biological species. In the present study, landmark-based geometric morphometrics methods have been used to analyse the skull variability of 218 specimens belonging to this species complex. Patterns of size and shape delimitate three morphological groups that are congruent with the proposed taxonomic assignments, and therefore support species rank for all three major groups. These morphometrics results, however, suggest that M. myotis and M. punicus share shape characteristics in the rostrum and in the posterior part of the skull that differ from M. blythii. Because previous molecular phylogenetic analyses suggested that M. myotis and M. blythii are sister species, we interpret the similitude in skull morphology between M. myotis and M. punicus as a convergence probably related to their similar feeding habits. Within the taxon M. punicus, the skull of Corsican and Sardinian populations significantly differs from that of Maghrebian ones, suggesting the existence of further cryptic taxonomic diversity.
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