The Vampyressa melissa species complex comprises three rare bat species poorly represented in museum collections. Vampyressa melissa and V. sinchi are restricted to the eastern slope of the Andes, while V. elisabethae only is known from Panama, in Central America. The species complex has received recent attention in terms of systematic reviews, which concluded in the description of two species: one from Panama (V. elisabethae) and one from Colombia (V. sinchi). Vampyressa melissa recently was reported from the eastern slopes of the Cordillera Oriental of Colombia, in the department of Casanare. However, morphological and genetic (Cytochrome b) comparisons showed that these specimens belong to an undescribed species of the genus. The new species is the smallest member of the V. melissa complex and has a unique set of morphological characters compared to other Vampyressa species. Molecular evidence shows that the new species is sister to V. melissa (sensu stricto) from Colombia and Peru, albeit with high genetic divergence (7.9%). Nevertheless, Cytochrome b sequences of V. elisabethae and V. sinchi still are unknown. This new species increases to six the number of species in the genus. Vampyressa melissa, V. sinchi, and the new species, exhibit restricted distributions in the eastern slopes of the Andean Cordillera, in specific altitudinal ranges. Because of geographic constraints, their biological rarity, and the high deforestation rates in their distributional area, we suggest that these three species must be considered as taxa threatened with extinction.
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Vol. 102 • No. 1