Conserving Invisible Species: Revealing Cryptic Diversity in the Neotropical Bat Genus Lophostoma

Diego A. Esquivel

Conservation efforts generally focus on recognized and charismatic species. However, there are species that are morphologically very similar and therefore go unnoticed in conservation plans by decision makers and scientists. These species, known as cryptic species, represent one of the greatest challenges for bat conservation today.

Colombian Pacific. © Carlos Andrés Aya.

Colombian Pacific. © Carlos Andrés Aya.

The objective of this project is to uncover the cryptic diversity within a group of Neotropical bats, demonstrate the significant impact that the lack of taxonomic resolution can have on conservation efforts, and establish protocols that can be widely used to study these types of species. The results of this project will help to better understand the cryptic diversity in neotropical bats and improve the taxonomy applied to the conservation of the genus Lophostoma.

With this information, we will obtain the following practical conservation outputs:

a) Identification of the number of valid taxa within the genus Lophostoma, as well as an evaluation of the conservation status of its species, including information on their distribution, genetics, ecology, and threats.

b) Establishment of an efficient protocol for studying cryptic diversity in neotropical bats, which will provide the necessary tools to support the work of other researchers conducting projects focused on these species.

c) Strengthening of conservation plans and monitoring of target species and their natural habitats in both Brazil and Colombia.

d) Incorporation of our results into the management and conservation plan of bat species in conservation units and buffer zones in Colombia.

e) Integration of conservation efforts with the staff of Protected Areas, local communities, and the general public through posters, informative brochures, talks, and social networks.

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