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Temporal range: Ypresian to Lutetian (Middle Eocene)
Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon.JPG
Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon from the Jura Museum of Eichstätt, Germany.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Chiroptera
(unranked): Microchiropteramorpha
Family: Palaeochiropterygidae
Revilliod, 1917
Type genus
Revilliod, 1917

See text

Palaeochiropterygidae is a family of extinct bats. It was originally erected by the Swiss naturalist Pierre Revilliod in 1917 after discoveries of Palaeochiropteryx fossils from the Messel Pit of Germany. Palaeochiropterygidae was merged into Archaeonycteridae by Kurten and Anderson in 1980, but modern authorities specializing in bat fossils maintain the distinction between the two.[1][2] It was classified to the unranked clade Microchiropteramorpha by Smith et al. in 2007.[3]

They existed from the Ypresian to the Lutetian ages of the Middle Eocene epoch (55.8 to 40.4 million years ago).


Two species of Palaeochiropterygidae, Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon and P. spiegeli, are known from complete skeletons from the famous Messel Pit fossil deposits in Germany. Palaeochiropteryx tupaiodon is the most common mammal found at Messel. All other species belonging to Palaeochiropterygidae are known only from isolated teeth and jaw fragments from Europe, India, Turkey, and possibly North America.[4][5][6]

At Messel, the two species of Palaeochiropteryx are hypothesized to have occupied similar niches to living hipposiderids and rhinolophids that forage close to the ground and among vegetation. Wings with low aspect ratio and wing loading and preserved stomach contents of small moths and caddisflies support the idea that these palaeochiropterygids were slow but maneuverable fliers.[7] The widespread distribution of Palaeochiropterygidae among the northern continents in the early and middle Eocene conflicts with the known morphology of P. tupaiodon and P. spiegeli, however, suggesting that other species of palaeochiropterygids had body plans much more suitable to long distance dispersal.[5]

Evolutionary relationships[edit]

Palaeochiropterygidae are generally considered to be the most advanced of the early bat families. Phylogenetic analyses have consistently shown Palaeochiropterygidae to be the closest relatives of the living, or crown, groups of bats.[8][9] Most phylogenetic analyses only include species of fossil bats known from complete skeletons, so relationships of species within Palaeochiropterygidae are currently unknown.

Both Matthesia and Cecilionycteris may be junior synonyms of Palaeochiropteryx.[4] Stehlinia has been previously considered to be a member of the superfamily Vespertilionoidea, possibly aligned with Natalidae or Kerivoulidae,[6][10] but is now more commonly recognized as a palaeochiropterygid. Stehlinia, along with Lapichiropteryx and Anatolianycteris, possesses a very simple lower fourth premolar compared to other palaeochiropterygids and a close relationship between those three species has been proposed.[4][5]


It contains the following genera. The list may be incomplete or inaccurate:[1][2][4]


  1. ^ a b c "Palaeochiropterygidae". Paleobiology Database. Archived from the original on August 22, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  2. ^ a b Thierry Smith; Rajendra S. Rana; Pieter Missiaen; Kenneth D. Rose; Ashok Sahni; Hukam Singh & Lachham Singh (2007). "High bat (Chiroptera) diversity in the Early Eocene of India". Naturwissenschaften. 94 (12): 1003–1009. Bibcode:2007NW.....94.1003S. doi:10.1007/s00114-007-0280-9. hdl:1854/LU-385394. PMID 17671774. S2CID 12568128. Archived from the original on July 22, 2011. Retrieved May 19, 2011.
  3. ^ Nancy B. Simmons & Tenley Conway (1998). "Higher-level Classification of Bats". Tree of Life web project. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d Gunnell, Gregg F.; Simmons, Nancy B.; Habersetzer, Jörg; Smith, Thierry (March 2012). "Systematics and paleobiogeography of early bats". Evolutionary History of Bats. Evolutionary History of Bats: Fossils, Molecules and Morphology. pp. 23–66. doi:10.1017/cbo9781139045599.003. ISBN 9781139045599.
  5. ^ a b c Jones, Matthew F.; Coster, Pauline M. C.; Licht, Alexis; Métais, Grégoire; Ocakoğlu, Faruk; Taylor, Michael H.; Beard, K. Christopher (2019-06-01). "A stem bat (Chiroptera: Palaeochiropterygidae) from the late middle Eocene of northern Anatolia: implications for the dispersal and palaeobiology of early bats". Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments. 99 (2): 261–269. doi:10.1007/s12549-018-0338-z. ISSN 1867-1608. S2CID 135184030.
  6. ^ a b Ostrander, Gregg E. (1987). "The early Oligocene (Chadronian) Raben Ranch local fauna, northwest Nebraska: Marsupialia, Insectivora, Dermoptera, Chiroptera, and Primates". Dakoterra. 3: 92–104.
  7. ^ Habersetzer, Jörg; Richter, Gotthard; Storch, Gerhard (1994-10-01). "Paleoecology of early middle Eocene bats from Messel, FRG. aspects of flight, feeding and echolocation". Historical Biology. 8 (1–4): 235–260. doi:10.1080/10292389409380479. ISSN 0891-2963.
  8. ^ Gunnell, Gregg F.; Jörg Habersetzer; Seymour, Kevin L.; Simmons, Nancy B. (February 2008). "Primitive Early Eocene bat from Wyoming and the evolution of flight and echolocation". Nature. 451 (7180): 818–821. Bibcode:2008Natur.451..818S. doi:10.1038/nature06549. hdl:2027.42/62816. ISSN 1476-4687. PMID 18270539. S2CID 4356708.
  9. ^ Gunnell, Gregg F.; Simmons, Nancy B. (2005-06-01). "Fossil Evidence and the Origin of Bats". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. 12 (1): 209–246. doi:10.1007/s10914-005-6945-2. hdl:2027.42/44972. ISSN 1573-7055. S2CID 5920611.
  10. ^ Marandat, Bernard; Crochet, Jean-Yves; Godinot, Marc; Hartenberger, Jean-Louis; Legendre, Serge; Remy, Jean Albert; Sigé, Bernard; Sudre, Jean; Vianey-Liaud, Monique (1993-01-01). "Une nouvelle faune à mammifèresd'âge éocène moyen (Lutétien supérieur) dans les phosphorites du Quercy". Geobios. 26 (5): 617–623. doi:10.1016/0016-6995(93)80042-P. ISSN 0016-6995.