Reconstructing the Genomic Diversity of a Widespread Sub-Saharan Bat (Pteropodidae: Eidolon Helvum) Using Archival Museum Collections

Brian Patrick O'Toole, Fordham University


Modern phylogeographic methods have confirmed that species with broad ranges often exhibit fine-scale patterns of genetic variation that are not reflected in their morphology. Recent genetic analyses of the Straw-colored fruit bat (Eidolon helvum) deviate from this trend in identifying this species as broadly panmictic across its range in sub-Saharan Africa. However, the limitations of sampling, along with potential for modern anthropogenic impacts to distort observed patterns, suggest that additional work is needed to assess true historical patterns of geographic variation in this species. I used Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) methods to assess patterns of variation found in historical samples of E. helvum and its sister species, E. dupreanum (a Malagasy endemic). Patterns of genomic variation from specimens collected between 1909 and 1983 were compared with those observed in more recently collected tissue samples. Our genetic analyses indicate that Eidolon helvum and E. dupreanum are distinct species as traditionally recognized, but, in keeping with prior results from modern samples, no patterns of spatial genomic structuring were identified in E. helvum across continental Africa. These results suggest that the currently observed pattern of panmixia is not a recent phenomenon in this taxon. These results also suggest that pathogens associated with risks to human health previously identified in populations of E. helvum may be similarly distributed. Our study further demonstrates that analyses utilizing such “archival” DNA from specimens in museum collections have the potential to illuminate patterns of both past and contemporary biodiversity, and to help assess the impacts of habitat loss and climate change on species at the genomic level.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

O'Toole, Brian Patrick, "Reconstructing the Genomic Diversity of a Widespread Sub-Saharan Bat (Pteropodidae: Eidolon Helvum) Using Archival Museum Collections" (2020). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI27955918.