Rebelo H, Froufe E, Brito JC , Russo D, Cistrone L, Ferrand N, Jones G


The barbastelle (Barbastella barbastellus) is a rare forest bat with a wide distribution in Europe. Here, we combine results from the analysis of two mtDNA fragments with species distribution modelling to determine glacial refugia and postglacial colonization routes. We also investigated whether niche conservatism occurs in this species. Glacial refugia were identified in the three southern European peninsulas: Iberia, Italy and the Balkans. These latter two refugia played a major role in the postglacial colonization process, with their populations expanding to England and central Europe, respectively. Palaeo-distribution models predicted that suitable climatic conditions existed in the inferred refugia during the last glacial maximum (LGM). Nevertheless, the overlap between the current and the LGM distributions was almost inexistent in Italy and in the Balkans, meaning that B. barbastellus populations were forced to shift range between glacial and interglacial periods, a process that probably caused some local extinctions. In contrast, Iberian populations showed a ‘refugia within refugium’ pattern, with two unconnected areas containing stable populations (populations that subsisted during both glacial and interglacial phases). Moreover, the match between LGM models and the refugial areas determined by molecular analysis supported the hypothesis of niche conservatism in B. barbastellus. We argue that geographic patterns of genetic structuring, altogether with the modelling results, indicate the existence of four management units for conservation: Morocco, Iberia, Italy and UK, and Balkans and central Europe. In addition, all countries sampled possessed unique gene pools, thus stressing the need for the conservation of local populations.


Journal: Molecular Ecology

DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2012.05566.x