New Cryptic Species of Miniopterus from India and Sri Lanka

The genus Miniopterus is a monophyletic assemblage of many species characterized by remarkably conservative morphology. The number of recognized species has more than doubled over the last two decades, mainly with newly recognized Afrotropical and Malagasy species. A molecular phylogenetic analysis based on cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) revealed a monophyletic clade of Miniopterus from Sri Lanka and southern India that is distinct from the other known taxa of this genus. The mean uncorrected pairwise sequence divergence among the three gene sequences of this new Miniopterus lineage was 0.83% (range 0.4–1.2%) and between this and other sampled taxa was 12.7% (range 8.5–15.9%). This lineage was also distinctive in craniodental morphometrics and hence it is herein described as a new species. The newly described species is easily distinguished by its external and cranial dimensions from its smaller (M. pusillus) and larger (M. magnater) congeners in India and Sri Lanka. It is also somewhat smaller than M. fuliginosus in both external and cranial dimensions. This is the first description of a new Miniopterus species from Asia in six decades and from India and Sri Lanka in eight decades. Our study highlights the importance of using both genetic and morphometric analyses in taxonomic studies on South Asian bats.

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