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A new look at the diversification of the family Molossidae: Phylogenetic hypothesis based on morphological and molecular markers


Bats from the pantropical family Molossidae are highly diverse fast aerial insectivores with over than 110 species currently known that have a great impact in insect controlling ecosystem services. Molossid richness and taxonomy has been recently in a high state of flux, with new species descriptions and reevaluation of species complexes of many genera. The evolutionary tree for free-tailed bat is also still unresolved, with questions on the monophyly of the family itself, particularly regards the inclusion of Tomopeas, and as well of some genera (e.g. Mops, Tadarida). Two recent phylogenies for the family were proposed, one using molecular markers (published in 2012) and other based solely on morphology (2016), but both are quite conflicting about the internal relationships of New and Old World genera in the tree. In order to test some of these hypotheses we ran combined evidence analyses using multiple molecular markers (Cyt b, ND1, βFIB, DMP1, and RAG2, total 3216 bp) and morphological characters (a total of 106 discrete characters, and including four new characters describing penial morphology) coded for 40 molossid species and three outgroups. Although we included only 35% of all recognized taxa, species representative of all genera and subgenera were analyzed, and no previous study used such wide and combined dataset. We performed Bayesian analyses with a matrix of all molecular markers combined but used individually selected models of sequence evolution for each gene. We used the same approach for a combined matrix of all genes and the morphological data. Although Tomopeas is sister-group of all other molossids thus recovering Molossinae according to the combined data, this taxon formed a clade with Cheiromeles sister to all the other molossids in the molecular tree, thus monophyly of the family remains uncertain. Mormopterus was monophyletic according to the combined data, with the African form M. jugularis sister to the South American forms, but the molecular data challenge its monophyly as the Neotropical forms M. kalinowski and M. phrudus nest with Myopterus, and M. jugularis is sister to a clade containing most molossine bats. Monophyly of the genus Tadarida is challenged by both the molecular only and by the combined data matrixes and explained by three to four independent lineages according to the phylogeny. Mops and Chaerophon consistently form a clade and should be revised to be accommodated within a single genus, and probably synonymized to Mops, the older name The African Asian Otomops is sister to most Neotropical taxa except for Mormopterus. Overall our hypothesis based on the combined evidence for Molossidae is innovative as we found consistent support for a New World clade with the exclusion of Mormopterus, but not for a clade including all or most the Old World forms, as proposed by previous phylogenetic hypotheses. 


Free-tailed bat phylogeny, combined analysis, morphology, molecular, Bayesian analysis 


CNPq 402330/2016-1


Sistemática e Taxonomia


Ligiane Martins Moras, Valéria Cunha Tavares, Loren K Ammerman, Renato Gregorin