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Proc Biol Sci. 2008 Oct 7;275(1648):2265-72. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.0532.

A genetic analysis of group movement in an isolated population of tree-roosting bats.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC 27402, USA. jd_metheny@hotmail.com

Abstract

Group fission is an important dispersal mechanism for philopatric adults. In Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park, Saskatchewan, tree-roosting big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) exhibit fission-fusion roosting behaviour. During 2004-2007, the majority of females previously resident to roosting area 1 (RA1) moved to a new roosting area (RA4). We examined how genetic relationships, inferred from data for microsatellite loci and mitochondrial DNA, influenced new roost area (RA) selection during 2006 when colony members were split between the RAs. We found that females who moved to RA4 had higher average relatedness than those that remained in RA1. We found that nearly all females belonging to matrilines with high average relatedness moved to RA4 while females from matrilines with low average relatedness were split between the two RAs. These results suggest that closely related maternal kin preferentially move to new RAs. However, daily roosting preferences within a RA are not based on genetic relationships probably because daily roosting associations between kin and non-kin are used to ensure adequate roost group size. Studying the effects of kinship on the fission and movements of groups not only enhances our understanding of social behaviour and population genetics but also informs conservation decisions.

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