Cryptic diversity of Italian bats and the role of the Apennine refugium in the phylogeography of the western Palaearctic

Wiesław Bogdanowicz, Pavel Hulva, Barbora Černá Bolfíková, Magdalena M. Buś, Edyta Rychlicka, Anna Sztencel-Jabłonka, Luca Cistrone, Danilo Russo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The Mediterranean Basin is typified by a high degree of species rarity and endemicity that reflects its position, geomorphology, and history. Although the composition and cryptic variation of the bat faunas from the Iberian and Balkan Peninsulas are relatively well studied, data from the Apennine Peninsula are still incomplete. This is a significant shortfall, given the presumed refugial role of this region in the context of Europe's Pleistocene phylogeography. It was thus our aim to supplement the phylogeographical information from the region, generating mitochondrial sequences and reviewing published data, with a focus on the dispersal and diversification patterns characterizing taxa with different life strategies. Site-specific lineages were ascertained, especially in the genera Myotis and Plecotus and amongst the pipistrelloid bats, representing speciose radiations. It was possible to observe disjunct ranges with patches isolated south of the Alps in several species, corresponding with evolution of elevated genetic distance. The genetic subdivision within the continuous Italian range into northern and southern lineages in several taxa indicated the possible past substructure of the refugium. Several shared lineages between the Apennine and Ibero-Maghrebian regions were observed, indicating connectivity between the Adriatic and Atlantic-Mediterranean refuges, and raising questions as to which region these clades originated from and what was the direction of faunal exchange between them. In contrast to Europe's other two main refugia, the Apennine Peninsula is a smaller region with simpler phylogeographical patterns. Nevertheless, our results support the idea that the region generated novel lineages. Whereas diversification in sedentary bats may have been driven through the generation of in situ adaptations, specialization, and niche differentiation, the emergence of species with a tramp strategy could have entailed the utilization of faunal drift and the taxon cycle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)635-648
Number of pages14
JournalZoological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2015


  • Chiroptera
  • Cryptic taxa
  • Glacial refugium
  • Species diversity
  • mtDNA


Dive into the research topics of 'Cryptic diversity of Italian bats and the role of the Apennine refugium in the phylogeography of the western Palaearctic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this