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J Parasitol. 2019 Aug;105(4):555-566.

A Fly on the Cave Wall: Parasite Genetics Reveal Fine-scale Dispersal Patterns of Bats.

Author information

1   Richard Gilder Graduate School, American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, New York, New York 10024.
2   Department of Biology, University of Florida, 876 Newell Drive, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
3   Division of Mammalogy, Florida Museum of Natural History, 1659 Museum Road, Gainesville, Florida 32611.
4   Department of Biology, Western Kentucky University, 1906 College Heights Boulevard, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101.
5   Integrative Research Center, Field Museum of Natural History, 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60605.
6   Department of Biological Sciences, University at Buffalo, 211 Putnam Way, Buffalo, New York 14260.
7   National Museum of The Bahamas, Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation, Marsh Harbour, Great Abaco, The Bahamas.


Dispersal influences the evolution and adaptation of organisms, but it can be difficult to detect. Host-specific parasites provide information about the dispersal of their hosts and may be valuable for examining host dispersal that does not result in gene flow or that has low signals of gene flow. We examined the population connectivity of the buffy flower bat, Erophylla sezekorni (Chiroptera: Phyllostomidae), and its associated obligate ectoparasite, Trichobius frequens (Diptera: Streblidae), across a narrow oceanic channel in The Bahamas that has previously been implicated as a barrier to dispersal in bats. Due to the horizontal transmission of T. frequens, we were able to test the hypothesis that bats are dispersing across this channel, but this dispersal does not result in gene flow, occurs rarely, or started occurring recently. We developed novel microsatellite markers for the family Streblidae in combination with previously developed markers for bats to genotype individuals from 4 islands in The Bahamas. We provide evidence for a single population of the host, E. sezekorni, but 2 populations of its bat flies, potentially indicating a recent reduction of gene flow in E. sezekorni, rare dispersal, or infrequent transportation of bat flies with their hosts. Despite high population differentiation in bat flies indicated by microsatellites, mitochondrial DNA shows no polymorphism, suggesting that bacterial reproductive parasites may be contributing to mitochondrial DNA sweeps. Parasites, including bat flies, provide independent information about their hosts and can be used to test hypotheses of host dispersal that may be difficult to assess using host genetics alone.


; Host–Parasite Interactions; Bahamas; Caribbean; Chiroptera; Gene Flow; Microsatellites; Streblidae


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