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Male dispersal in the noctule bat (Nyctalus noctula): where are the limits?

E. Petit, F. Mayer


Studying the dispersal behaviour of small, volant, and nocturnal animals such as microchiropterans with direct methods (banding–recapture, telemetry) is a very difficult task. The development of easily scorable and highly variable genetic markers nowadays allows us to study some aspects of dispersal indirectly, using population genetics. Here, we applied this indirect methods to characterize male dispersal behaviour in a European bat species. The eight microsatellite loci analysed were highly variable in all the nursing colonies assessed (h = 0.63 to 0.93). Contrary to what we found in the mtDNA, an AMOVA and F-statistics showed that the overall European population structure of the noctule bat was very weak, indicating a high male dispersal rate. Nevertheless, the population was not totally panmictic (theta = 0.006, p < 0.001), and neither isolation by distance, nor influence of migration could account for this result. Rather, an analysis of pairwise theta-values showed that the population structure might be explained partly by a geographical barrier to gene flow (the Alps), and partly by the fact that there is some limit to the distance the males can disperse.

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