The Straits of Gibraltar: barrier or bridge to Ibero-Moroccan bat diversity?




Genetic divergence in bat communities was assessed on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar and cryptic diversity was examined. Screening was carried out using partial sequences of the mitochondrial (mt)DNA cytochrome b gene on 399 individual bats belonging to the 18 species found on both sides of the Straits of Gibraltar. For those bats that showed important genetic discontinuities, molecular markers (ND1 and nuclear RAG2 genes) were added to expand the sampling process. Phylogenetic reconstructions were obtained using maximum parsinomy, genetic distances, maximum likelihood, and Bayesian criteria. As an estimate of bats' flight performance, we measured for each species the wing aspect ratio and wing loading indexes, and correlated them with the maximum pairwise genetic distances obtained between southern Iberian and northern Moroccan populations. Genetic mtDNA distances between populations on both continents exceed 5% in seven out of 18 bat species analysed and unknown lineages were uncovered within the species complexes Myotis nattereri and Myotis mystacinus. We did not find a general pattern in the degree of permeability of the Straits of Gibraltar for bats. Genetic distances were not correlated with the ability to cross the Straits. Our study shows that the cryptic diversity uncovered among bats continues to increase as more regions are studied. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 96, 434–450.