Saturday, November 12, 2016

[Mammalogy • 2011] Taxonomic Revision of the Genus Asellia (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) with A Description of A New Species, Asellia arabica, from southern Arabia

  Asellia arabica  
Benda, Vallo & Reiter, 2011

from Ain Jarziz, Dhofar, SW Oman, photo by A. Reiter  || DOI:  10.3161/150811011X624749 

Two species are currently recognised within the genus Asellia, a typical inhabitant of arid areas of northern Africa and south-western Asia. Most of the distribution range of the genus is covered by Asellia tridens, while the other species, A. patrizii, is restricted to Ethiopia, Eritrea and several Red Sea islands. We analysed the morphological variation in an extensive set of Asellia samples covering the range of the genus, including most of the available type material. In a representative subset of samples, we employed molecular genetic analysis to infer the phylogenetic relationships within the broadly distributed A. tridens. Morphological comparisons revealed four distinct morphotypes. Except for the endemic A. patrizii, almost all African Asellia were found to belong to the same morphotype as most of the Middle Eastern specimens. This morphotype was unambiguously identified as A. tridens. Two other morphotypes of tentative A. tridens were further recognised based on skull shape differences; one in the southern Arabian region of Dhofar, the other in Socotra and Somalia. Phylogenetic analysis of complete sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene yielded three main monophyletic groups, which corresponded to the morphotypes revealed for A. tridens. Significant genetic divergences reaching over 5% and 12%, respectively, were discovered between them. Based on the morphological and molecular data obtained, we propose a split of the current A. tridens into three separate species: A. tridens in northern Africa and most of the Middle East, A. italosomalica in Socotra and Somalia, and Asellia sp. nov. in southern Arabia. Molecular dating, along with the available paleontological information and geological history of the Arabian Peninsula, supports an Arabian origin of the contemporary Asellia. While profound divergence of the Socotran form may be linked to the split of Socotra from the southern Arabian coast in the Middle Miocene, the low sequence variation of Asellia in most of Africa and the Middle East suggests a relatively recent colonisation of this vast area during the Pleistocene. The newly described form from southern Arabia most likely represents a relic of aridisation during the Miocene-Pliocene transition.

 Keywords: Asellia, morphology, morphometry, mfDNA, taxonomy, phylogeny

FIG. 10. Portrait of   Asellia arabica sp. nov. from Ain Jarziz, Dhofar, SW Oman
photo by A. Reiter

Asellia arabica sp. nov.

Asellia tridens (Geoffroy, 1813): Pockock, 1935: 442; Harrison, 1964: 98; Harrison, 1980: 390; Kingdon, 1990: 37; Harrison and Bates, 1991: 55.
Asellia tridens tridens (Geoffroy, 1813): Harrison, 1957: 5; Kock, 1969: 129; Nader, 1990: 340; Al-Jumaily, 1998: 483.
Asellia patrizii De Beaux, 1931: Al-Jumaily, 2004: 60.

Type locality: Republic of Yemen, Province of Al Mahra, oasis of Hawf (easternmost edge of the country), 16°39’N, 53°03’E, 410 m a.s.l.

Derivatio nominis: The name arabica (Arabian) reflects the area of occurrence of the new species, i.e. the southern part of Arabia

Distribution: Coastal areas of southern Arabia stretching from the Hadramaut Province in south-eastern Yemen (ca. 49°E) to the Dhofar Province in south-western Oman (ca. 55°E), i.e., ca. 650 km of a narrow coastal strip.

Petr Benda, Peter Vallo and Antonín Reiter. 2011. Taxonomic Revision of the Genus Asellia (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) with A Description of A New Species from southern Arabia. Acta Chiropterologica. 13(2); 245–270. DOI:  10.3161/150811011X624749