The Guiana Shield of South America contains savannas within one of the largest contiguous expanses of pristine tropical rainforest remaining in the world, but biodiversity in the grasslands is poorly known. In lowland Neotropical areas, bats typically comprise the most species-rich group of mammals. We compare the bat faunal community and phylogeography in the savanna habitats of the Llanos in Venezuela, Rupununi in Guyana, and Sipaliwini in Suriname. Measures of species diversity and relative abundance from standardized field survey methodology enable comparison among these three grassland regions. Genetic variation is summarized by DNA barcoding to examine biogeographic patterns across larger forest–savanna landscapes. A total of 76 species of bats is documented, of which 18 species are reported from all 3 savannas and 30 species are reported from only 1 of the savannas. Endemism is low with 5 taxa restricted primarily to dry, open habitats. However, 7 other species have divergent phylogeographic lineages associated with savanna populations. Although bat species are usually distributed over wide regions of the Neotropics, the habitat mosaics of the Guiana Shield have different faunal assemblages. Going back into the Miocene, the contractions and expansions of forest–savanna paleoenvironments over time have contributed to speciation and the current high levels of biodiversity in South America.
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