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New chiropterans from the middle Eocene of Shanghuang (Jiangsu Province, Coastal China): new insight into the dawn horseshoe bats (Rhinolophidae) in Asia



Until recently, the fossil record of Paleogene bats in Asia primarily included extinct families (i.e. ‘Eochiroptera’) from the early Eocene of Vastan in India and from the middle-late Eocene of the Liguanqiao and Yuanqu basins in central China. Here, we describe a new fauna of Chiroptera from the middle Eocene Shanghuang fissure fillings of China. The fauna includes abundant material referred to a new rhinolophid (Protorhinolophus shanghuangensis gen. and sp. n.), one specimen of a possible rhinopomatid and several indeterminate rhinolophoids. This new bat assemblage constitutes the earliest record of extant families of microbats in Asia. Because it lacks representatives of ‘Eochiroptera’, this Shanghuang bat fauna indicates significant turnover in Asian bat communities. The dental pattern of P. shanghuangensis shows a mosaic of primitive and derived features (‘Eochiroptera’ vs Rhinolophidae dental characteristics), suggesting that this taxon occupies a basal position among the Rhinolophidae. Rhinolophids were already well diversified at the end of the late Eocene in Europe. Interestingly, many dental characteristics of Protorhinolophus are also found in a primitive rhinolophoid taxon, Vaylatsia, from the middle Eocene to late Oligocene of Europe, supporting a close relationship between these taxa. These affinities testify to the widespread Eurasian distribution of rhinolophoids during the Eocene and are consistent with a westward dispersal of the group from eastern Asia to Europe owing to the greater antiquity of Protorhinolophus.