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Mol Ecol. 2011 Sep;20(17):3669-80. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2011.05192.x. Epub 2011 Aug 8.

Hierarchical polygyny in multiparous lesser flat-headed bats.

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  • 1Institute of Molecular Ecology and Evolution, Institutes of Advanced Inter-disciplinary Research, East China Normal University, Shanghai 200062, China.


How males gain access to mates and the potential for female choice will determine whether polygyny can operate at several levels, from within litters and groups to the wider population. Female lesser flat-headed bats (Tylonycteris pachypus) form maternity groups in bamboo stems. Unusually for bats, they are multiparous, providing the opportunity to test whether multi-level polygyny differs among males depending on whether they roost with females, with males or are solitary. We genotyped 662 individuals from 54 internodes and analysed parentage of 165 litters. Our results revealed 170 sets of paternal twins/triplets, of which 96 were full-sibs and 74 were half-sibs. We found that males captured roosting with females typically sired more offspring overall than did other males and also showed a greater tendency to monopolize paternity within both litters and roosting groups. In comparison, males that sired fewer full-sibs were assigned more maternal half-sibs. These latter individuals, which included solitary males and those from all-male groups, might gain copulations either via roaming with furtive mating or during visits by females. Indeed, female lesser flat-headed bats store sperm, so could benefit from multiple mating to reduce genetic incompatibilities. At the same time, however, we found no evidence of outbreeding. Finally, relatedness and mtDNA analyses revealed that polygyny also operated within matrilineal kin, suggesting a system that might promote social cohesiveness. Future studies of individual movements will help to determine the extent to which mixed paternities in litters, matrilines and groups are driven by male or female behaviour.

© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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