Myotis lucifigus and Myotis yumanensis are 2 species of bats subject to potentially high rates of misidentification because they are often difficult to differentiate in the hand under field conditions. We tested the utility of a suite of external morphological characteristics frequently cited in regional keys to differentiate the 2 species in the field. Forearm length, dorsal pelage sheen, ear color, and forehead slope were examined from 101 bats captured in central Oregon during 2002–2003. Post hoc genetic analysis was performed on tissue samples collected from the 101 bats to confirm identification. Forearm lengths overlapped considerably between species. Only 18% of M. yumanensis and 17% of M. lucifugus were correctly identified with probability ≥95% using forearm length alone. Pelage sheen, ear color, and forehead slope successfully identified 96%, 82%, and 77% of individual bats, respectively. When forearm length was considered together with other traits, identification rates ranged from 92% to 20%. Ability to correctly identify M. yumanensis was 2–6 times greater than for M. lucifugus. Pelage sheen was useful in our study; however, using this character required a subjective decision from the observer, and the result often contradicted other characters for species identification stated in regional keys. For these reasons, we recommend that morphological features be used judiciously and only as supportive criteria for field identification in combination with voucher echolocation calls and genetic confirmation.
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Vol. 68 • No. 4