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Abstract

The social organisation of the polyoestrous bat, Tadarida pumila, was studied in northern Ghana (W. Africa). Although this small (8.5 g) free-tailed bat is not sexually dimorphic in size, adult males develop an odorous inter-aural crest of long hairs. A social system based on female defense polygyny was found which, however, also involved elements of resource defense. Harems, each generally established in the roof space of separate dwelling houses with restricted access, consisted of an adult male and up to 21 females, with their young, and the larger harems were held by heavier males. Harem composition was stable and both harem males and females showed high site fidelity over the study span of 16 months. Some female young were recruited to their natal harems, at a sufficient rate to replace the annual loss of harem females. However, most young, which were born in three successive cohorts during the rainy season, apparently dispersed over the dry season, following early sexual maturation. The potential causes and benefits of female associations are discussed.