Aim We investigate the population genetic structure of the Maghrebian bat, Myotis punicus, between the mainland and islands to assess the island colonization pattern and current gene flow between nearby islands and within the mainland.
Location North Africa and the Mediterranean islands of Corsica and Sardinia.
Methods We sequenced part of the control region (HVII) of 79 bats across 11 colonies. The phylogeographical pattern was assessed by analysing molecular diversity indices, examining differentiation among populations and estimating divergence time. In addition, we genotyped 182 bats across 10 colonies at seven microsatellite loci. We used analysis of molecular variance and a Bayesian approach to infer nuclear population structure. Finally, we estimated sex-specific dispersal between Corsica and Sardinia.
Results Mitochondrial analyses indicated that colonies between Corsica, Sardinia and North Africa are highly differentiated. Within islands there was no difference between colonies, while at the continental level Moroccan and Tunisian populations were highly differentiated. Analyses with seven microsatellite loci showed a similar pattern. The sole difference was the lack of nuclear differentiation between populations in North Africa, suggesting a male-biased dispersal over the continental area. The divergence time of Sardinian and Corsican populations was estimated to date back to the early and mid-Pleistocene.
Main conclusions Island colonization by the Maghrebian bats seems to have occurred in a stepping-stone manner and certainly pre-dated human colonization. Currently, open water seems to prevent exchange of bats between the two islands, despite their ability to fly and the narrowness of the strait of Bonifacio. Corsican and Sardinian populations are thus currently isolated from any continental gene pool and must therefore be considered as different evolutionarily significant units (ESU).
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