A tale of two siblings: multiple paternity in big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) demonstrated using microsatellite markers


Maarten J. Vonhof, Fax: (269) 387 5609; E-mail: maarten.vonhof@wmich.edu


In many bat species, the opportunity for sperm competition or other mechanisms of post-copulatory paternity biasing is thought to be great, due to the long delay between copulation and fertilization, demonstrated sperm storage capabilities, and observed promiscuity. We present the results of the first study to assess whether litters of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) containing dizygotic twins share the same father. We sampled 26 mother–offspring triads from three colonies in Indiana and Illinois, as well as 299 additional adults (237 females and 62 males) from these colonies and six other maternity colonies in the same area in 1997–1998. All individuals were genotyped at nine highly variable autosomal microsatellite loci and one X-linked locus. We assessed multiple paternity using autosomal and X-linked locus exclusions, and using maximum-likelihood methods. All methods confirmed multiple paternity within litters, and the maximum-likelihood analyses indicated that almost half of the sampled litters were composed of maternal half-siblings rather than full-siblings. Our results highlight the potential importance of post-copulatory mechanisms of paternity determination in the mating system of big brown bats, and have important implications for gene flow and population structuring in this species.