Australo-Papuan tube-nosed fruit bats of the genus Nyctimene reach their most westerly distribution on the island archipelagos of eastern Indonesia. A recent morphological examination indicates three species occur on Moluccan islands. Both allozyme electrophoresis and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequencing reveal there are only two species present, Nyctimene cephalotes and Nyctimene albiventer, but there is considerable disparity between the results obtained from the two genetic data sets. Allozyme data indicate N. albiventer occurs on Wokam, which sits on the Australian continental shelf and was joined to Australo-Papua during the last glacial maximum, and N. cephalotes on the other Moluccan islands, all of which are off the continental shelf. Divergence of these two species is dated at approximately 1.5 Mya. By contrast, the mtDNA gene tree shows two deep clades, one containing all specimens from Wokam and Yamdena, and the second all the specimens from the other islands. This especially marked incongruence between the two genetic data sets is ascribed to either a single introgression event of N. albiventer mtDNA into N. cephalotes on Yamdena at around 100 000 ya or lineage sorting of very old mtDNA lineages that coalesce a rather long time before the speciation event. These results highlight that caution should be exercised when relying on mtDNA as barcodes in species taxonomy. The continental-associated N. albiventer on Wokam has higher levels of allozyme heterozygosity and mtDNA nucleotide diversity than the N. cephalotes populations occurring on the more remote islands, indicating that this colonizing species has experienced bottlenecks and/or a low effective population size since speciation. © 2008 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2008, 93, 589–602.