Background: New World leaf-nosed bats, Phyllostomidae, represent a lineage of Chiroptera marked by unprecedented morphological/ecological diversity and extensive intergeneric chromosomal reorganization. There are still disagreements regarding their systematic relationships due to morphological convergence among some groups. Their history of karyotypic evolution also remains to be documented. Results: To better understand the evolutionary relationships within Phyllostomidae, we developed chromosome paints from the bat species Macrotus californicus. We tested the potential of these paints as phylogenetic tools by looking for chromosomal signatures in two lineages of nectarivorous phyllostomids whose independent origins have been statistically supported by molecular phylogenies. By examining the chromosomal homologies defined by chromosome painting among two representatives of the subfamily Glossophaginae (Glossophaga soricina and Anoura cultrata) and one species from the subfamily Lonchophyllinae (Lonchophylla concava), we found chromosomal correspondence in regions not previously detected by other comparative cytogenetic techniques. We proposed the corresponding human chromosomal segments for chromosomes of the investigated species and found two syntenic associations shared by G. soricina and A. cultrata. Conclusion: Comparative painting with whole chromosome-specific paints of M. californicus demonstrates an extensive chromosomal reorganization within the two lineages of nectarivorous phyllostomids, with a large number of chromosomes shared between M. californicus and G. soricina. We show that the evolution of nectar-feeding bats occurs mainly by reshuffling of chiropteran Evolutionarily Conserved Units (ECUs). Robertsonian fusions/fissions and inversions seem to be important modifiers of phyllostomid karyotypes, and autapomorphic character states are common within species. Macrotus californicus chromosome paints will be a valuable tool for documenting the pattern of karyotypic evolution within Phyllostomidae radiation.
- Karyotype evolution