Population genetics reveal Myotis keenii (Keen’s myotis) and Myotis evotis (long-eared myotis) to be a single species

Publication: Canadian Journal of Zoology
8 November 2018


Recognizing delineations of gene flow among groups of animals can be challenging but is necessary for conservation and management. Of particular importance is the identification of species boundaries. Several physical and genetic traits have been used with mixed success to distinguish Myotis keenii (Merriam, 1895) (Keen’s myotis) and Myotis evotis (H. Allen, 1864) (long-eared myotis), but it is unclear whether species distinction is biologically warranted. We generated 12–14 microsatellite locus genotypes for 275 long-eared Myotis representing four species — M. keenii, M. evotis, Myotis septentrionalis (Trouessart, 1897) (northern myotis), and Myotis thysanodes Miller, 1897 (fringed myotis) — from across northwestern North America and 23 Myotis lucifugus (Le Conte, 1831) (little brown myotis) as the outgroup. Population genetic analyses revealed four well-defined groups (species): M. septentrionalis, M. thysanodes, M. lucifugus, and a single group comprising M. keenii and M. evotis. We document high rates of gene flow within M. evotis/M. keenii. Cytochrome b gene (mtDNA) sequencing failed to resolve morphologically identifiable species. We highlight the importance of geographically thorough investigation of genetic connectivity (nuclear markers) when assessing taxonomic status of closely related groups. We document a morphometric cline within M. evotis/M. keenii that may in part explain earlier analyses that led to the description of the smaller bodied M. keenii (type locality: Haida Gwaii). We conclude that M. keenii does not qualify as a genetic or biological species.


Si elle peut s’avérer difficile, la détermination des tracés de flux de gènes entre groupes d’animaux est néanmoins nécessaire pour la conservation et la gestion. L’établissement des frontières entre espèces est particulièrement important. Si plusieurs caractères physiques et génétiques ont été utilisés avec un succès mitigé pour distinguer Myotis keenii (Merriam, 1895) (vespertilion de Keen) et Myotis evotis (H. Allen, 1864) (vespertilion à longues oreilles), la pertinence, du point de vue biologique, de distinguer ces deux espèces demeure incertaine. Nous avons produit des génotypes de 12–14 loci microsatellites pour 275 vespertilions à longues oreilles représentant quatre espèces — M. keenii, M. evotis, Myotis septentrionalis (Trouessart, 1897) (vespertilion nordique) et Myotis thysanodes Miller, 1897 (vespertilion à queue frangée) — provenant de tout le nord-ouest de l’Amérique du Nord et 23 Myotis lucifugus (Le Conte, 1831) (vespertilion brun) hors groupe. Les analyses de la génétique des populations révèlent quatre groupes bien définis, à savoir M. septentrionalis, M. thysanodes, M. lucifugus et un seul groupe comprenant M. keenii et M. evotis. Nous documentons des taux élevés de flux génétique au sein de M. evotis/M. keenii. Le séquençage du gène du cytochrome b (ADNmt) ne permet pas de distinguer des espèces identifiables sur une base morphologique. Nous soulignons l’importance d’un examen géographiquement exhaustif de la connectivité génétique (marqueurs génétiques) pour l’évaluation du statut taxonomique de groupes étroitement reliés. Nous documentons un cline morphométrique au sein de M. evotis/M. keenii qui pourrait en partie expliquer des analyses passées qui ont mené à la description du plus petit M. keenii (localité type : Haida Gwaii). Nous concluons que M. keenii ne constitue pas une espèce génétique ou biologique. [Traduit par la Rédaction]

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cover image Canadian Journal of Zoology
Canadian Journal of Zoology
Volume 97Number 3March 2019
Pages: 267 - 279


Received: 21 April 2018
Accepted: 27 September 2018
Published online: 8 November 2018


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Key Words

  1. Myotis keenii
  2. Keen’s myotis
  3. Myotis evotis
  4. long-eared myotis
  5. Myotis thysanodes
  6. fringed myotis
  7. Myotis septentrionalis
  8. northern myotis
  9. Myotis lucifugus
  10. little brown myotis
  11. microsatellites
  12. taxonomy


  1. Myotis keenii
  2. vespertilion de Keen
  3. Myotis evotis
  4. vespertilion à longues oreilles
  5. Myotis thysanodes
  6. vespertilion à queue frangée
  7. Myotis septentrionalis
  8. vespertilion nordique
  9. Myotis lucifugus
  10. vespertilion brun
  11. microsatellites
  12. taxonomie



Cori L. Lausen corilausen@netidea.com
Wildlife Conservation Society Canada, P.O. Box 606, Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0, Canada.
Michael Proctor
Birchdale Ecological Ltd., P.O. Box 606, Kaslo, BC V0G 1M0, Canada.
David W. Nagorsen
Royal British Columbia Museum, 675 Belleville Street, Victoria, BC V8W 9W2, Canada.
Doug Burles*
Parks Canada, Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, Queen Charlotte, BC V0T 1S0, Canada.
David Paetkau
Wildlife Genetics International, #200-182 Baker Street, Nelson, BC V1L 4H2, Canada.
Erin Harmston
Wildlife Genetics International, #200-182 Baker Street, Nelson, BC V1L 4H2, Canada.
Karen Blejwas
Alaska Department of Fish and Game, 802 3rd Street, Douglas, AK 99824, USA.
Purnima Govindarajulu
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, 4th Floor-525 Superior Street, Victoria, BC V8V 0C5, Canada.
Laura Friis
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (retired).


Present address: 1038 Pine Springs Road, Kamloops, BC V2B 8A8, Canada.
Present address: 1270 Johnson Street 305, Victoria, BC V8V 3P1, Canada.
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1. Reply to the comment by Morales et al. on “Population genetics reveal Myotis keenii (Keen’s myotis) and Myotis evotis (long-eared myotis) to be a single species”1
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