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Chiropteran Systematics


With few exceptions, the systematic arrangement of bats above the level of species and genera was erected on the basis of classical studies of structure of the bony skeleton (principally the wing, shoulder girdle, sternum, and cranium), and to a lesser extent on development and structure of the teeth (see especially Dobson, 1878, and Miller, 1907). At the generic and specific levels of classification, external and cranial features have been stressed as well as dental structure and dental formulae. In recent years, with the development of the so-called bio-systematic approach to studies of relationships among animals and plants, new techniques such as serological investigations, analyses of karyotypes, comparison of ecto-and endoparasitic faunas, and investigations of a variety of specialized morphological structures of both the soft and hard anatomy have added considerably to our understanding of chiropteran systematics and phylogeny, but much yet remains to be learned. The number of published studies relating to systematics of bats has annually increased at a rapid rate over the past several decades. This has resulted from greater opportunities for field and laboratory studies than in the past and a concomitant increase in number of investigators, and also because of new and better methods of acquiring specimens (mist nets and sophisticated bat traps, for example). It may be expected that the study of chiropteran systematics will reach an even greater level of growth in the decades immediately ahead. In the sections that follow, our aim has been to allude to problems at several levels of bat classification, by way of example, and to mention ways in which some of the newer techniques have aided in the solution of certain systematic problems. Each of the other papers in this symposium will raise additional cogent points relevant to a better understanding of the classification and systematics of bats.

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