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Keywords:

  • Chiroptera;
  • control region;
  • microsatellite;
  • phylogeography;
  • population structure;
  • suture zones

Abstract

Analyses of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region polymorphism and of variation at 10 nuclear microsatellite loci were used to investigate the mechanisms and genetic consequences of postglacial expansion of Myotis myotis in Europe. Initial sampling consisted of 480 bats genotyped in 24 nursery colonies arranged along a transect of ≈ 3000 km. The phylogeographical survey based on mtDNA sequences revealed the existence of major genetic subdivisions across this area, with several suture zones between haplogroups. Such zones of secondary contact were found in the Alps and Rhodopes, whereas other potential barriers to gene flow, like the Pyrenees, did not coincide with genetic discontinuities. Areas of population admixture increased locally the genetic diversity of colonies, which confounded the northward decrease in nucleotide diversity predicted using classical models of postglacial range expansion. However, when analyses were restricted to a subset of 15 nurseries originating from a single presumed glacial refugium, mtDNA polymorphism did indeed support a northwards decrease in diversity. Populations were also highly structured (ΦST = 0.384). Conversely, the same subset of colonies showed no significant latitudinal decrease in microsatellite diversity and much less population structure (FST = 0.010), but pairwise genetic differentiation at these nuclear markers was strongly correlated with increasing geographical distance. Together, this evidence suggests that alleles carried via male bats have maintained enough nuclear gene flow to counteract the effects of recurrent bottlenecks generally associated with recolonization processes. As females are highly philopatric, we argue that the maternally transmitted mtDNA marker better reflects the situation of past, historical gene flow, whereas current levels of gene flow are better reflected by microsatellite markers.