Patterns of genetic diversification in a widespread species of bat, Molossus molossus
The taxonomy and evolutionary relationships of the velvety free-tailed bat, Molossus molossus, from Central and South America has long been debated. Within this species, and in fact the entire genus Molossus, specimens have been especially difficult to identify and are taxonomically challenging. The objective of this project was to determine the relationship among individuals representing subspecies of the widespread species, M. molossus. The mitochondrial gene, cytochrome b (cytb), and the nuclear gene mast cell growth factor (MGF), were amplified for specimens from across the geographic range, and were sequenced and analyzed phylogenetically. Further, a haplotype analysis was conducted to help resolve relationships within M. molossus. A Bayesian analysis of 678 base pairs of the cytb gene was conducted for 63 specimens with M. alvarezi as an outgroup. A Bayesian analysis of 658 base pairs of the MGF gene was conducted for 17 specimens with Nyctinomops femorosaccus as an outgroup. The haplotype web of M. molossus individuals revealed ten haplotypes. The results of these analyses showed that some subspecies of M. molossus, based on morphology and geographic location, are consistent with the lineages recovered. However, not all currently recognized subspecies of M. molossus are supported by this analysis.