Mating patterns, relatedness and the basis of natal philopatry in the brown long-eared bat, Plecotus auritus

T.M. Burland, E. M. Barratt, R. A. Nicholls, Paul Adrian Racey

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    The brown long-eared bat, Plecotus auritus, is unusual among temperate zone bats in that summer maternity colonies are composed of adult males and females, with both sexes displaying natal philopatry and long-term association with a colony. Here, we describe the use of microsatellite analysis to investigate colony relatedness and mating patterns, with the aim of identifying the evolutionary determinants of social organization in P. auritus. Mean colony relatedness was found to be low (R = 0.033 +/- 0.002), with pairwise estimates of R within colonies ranging from -0.4 to 0.9. The proportion of young fathered by males in their own colony was investigated using a Bayesian approach, incorporating parameters detailing the number of untyped individuals. This analysis revealed that most offspring were fathered by males originating from a different colony to their own. In addition, we determined that the number of paternal half-sibs among cohorts of young was low, inferring little or no skew in male reproductive success. The results of this study suggest that kin selection cannot account for colony stability and natal philopatry in P. auritus, which may instead be explained by advantages accrued through the use of familiar and successful roost sites, and through long-term associations with conspecifics. Moreover, because the underlying causes of male natal dispersal in mammals, such as risk of inbreeding or competition for mates, appear to be avoided via extra-colony copulation and low male reproductive skew, both P. auritus males and females are able to benefit from long-term association with the natal colony.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1309-1321
    Number of pages12
    JournalMolecular Ecology
    Publication statusPublished - 2001


    • Chiroptera
    • mating system
    • microsatellite
    • paternity
    • relatedness
    • social organization


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