Is the Gibraltar Strait a barrier to gene flow for the bat Myotis myotis (Chiroptera: Vespertilionidae)?


M. Ruedi:†Present address: Muséum d’histoire naturelle, CP 6434, CH-1211 Genève 6, Switzwerland. Fax: + 41 22 4186301;


Because of their role in limiting gene flow, geographical barriers like mountains or seas often coincide with intraspecific genetic discontinuities. Although the Strait of Gibraltar represents such a potential barrier for both plants and animals, few studies have been conducted on its impact on gene flow. Here we test this effect on a bat species (Myotis myotis) which is apparently distributed on both sides of the strait. Six colonies of 20 Myotis myotis each were sampled in southern Spain and northern Morocco along a linear transect of 1350 km. Results based on six nuclear microsatellite loci reveal no significant population structure within regions, but a complete isolation between bats sampled on each side of the strait. Variability at 600 bp of a mitochondrial gene (cytochrome b) confirms the existence of two genetically distinct and perfectly segregating clades, which diverged several million years ago. Despite the narrowness of the Gibraltar Strait (14 km), these molecular data suggest that neither males, nor females from either region have ever reproduced on the opposite side of the strait. Comparisons of molecular divergence with bats from a closely related species (M. blythii) suggest that the North African clade is possibly a distinct taxon warranting full species rank. We provisionally refer to it as Myotis cf punicus Felten 1977, but a definitive systematic understanding of the whole Mouse-eared bat species complex awaits further genetic sampling, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean areas.