Helena Santos | March 28, 2014 | 15h20 | CIBIO’s Auditorium, Campus de Vairão




Cryptic species, defined as ecologically and/or genetically distinct species with very similar morphology, pose a challenge to understanding species distributions as they bring the need to redefine what was once thought to be a single species’ distribution and environmental requirements. Moreover, cryptic species may lead to biodiversity underestimates and may comprise threatened taxa within the cryptic complex that consequently require new conservation statuses. Due to increasingly rapid DNA sequencing and the advances in molecular phylogenetic methods over the past decades, many cryptic species have recently been identified. Indeed, one of the most diverse mammal groups in Europe – the bats – have significantly increased in species number. In this context, the Iberian Peninsula has shown to possess rich genetic diversity and recent evidence suggests that 20% of Iberian bat species harbour complexes of cryptic species. In order to determine what shapes the distributions of cryptic species, this study aimed to unravel ecological niches and geographical distributions of three bat cryptic species complexes in Iberia, considering ecological interactions and biogeographic patterns. Species distribution models were built, incorporating genetically identified species records with environmental variables, and niche analyses were performed to study niche overlap and breadth. This work tries to demonstrate that combining genetic analyses with species distribution modelling provides important insights on the dynamics of the distribution of cryptic species.



Helena Santos started working with bats during her MSc in 2010, under the supervision of Hugo Rebelo (CIBIO/InBIO), after graduating in Biology at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto in 2009. After working under the project “Crypdiv - Unveiling bat cryptic divergence in Iberia: using distribution modelling and genetic analyses to investigate the isolation and differentiation of species” (PTDC/BIA-BIC/110587/2009), Helena is presently at her second year at the BIODIV PhD programme. Her projects focuses on combining molecular analyses with predictive modelling to study the population history of Iberian cryptic bats, particularly the species Plecotus begognae, being supervised by Hugo Rebelo and Javier Juste (Estación Biológica de Doñana).



Image credits: Helena Santos