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Classification of Bats


In the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, published in 1758 and the starting point of the binomial system of nomenclature currently employed in zoology, Linnaeus recognized seven species of bats, which he placed in a single genus (Vespertilio) and grouped with the primates and dermopterans. All of Linnaeus's seven species are recognized today, but as they now are classified each represents a distinctive genus, and the genera are arranged taxonomically in five different families of two suborders. In contrast to Linnaeus's scheme, the present classification of bats (long ago placed in a distinct order, Chiroptera) lists 847 Recent species, belonging to 169 Recent genera, 15 families (at least three other families are known only as fossils), and two suborders (see Table 1). Much work remains in elucidating the relationships of bats, even at the higher taxonomic levels. In the plethora of publications that have appeared in recent years on the distribution and systematics of bat genera and species, the trend has been to reduce the number of recognized taxa at these levels, even though some new species, and occasionally a new genus, are named annually. Several of the subsequent papers in this symposium touch on problems relating to classification.

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