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(LACK OF) POPULATION GENETIC STRUCTURE IN MINNESOTA’S LITTLE BROWN BATS: CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS
Michael Dixon, University of Minnesota
Male-biased dispersal, coupled with female natal philopatry, is the accepted norm for a majority of mammals, presumably to prevent inbreeding. However, recent genetic evidence for some bats suggests that some of our most common species may fail to conform to this pattern. The little brown bat Myotis lucifugus is one of the most common and widespread bats in North America, partly because of its almost universal predisposition to roosting in human built structures. Many such buildings are the subject of demolition and renovation, with unknown consequences for local bat populations. My current work seeks to use genetic tools to determine the relative extent of female natal philopatry by this species, which may provide evidence as to the relative importance of such structures. Preliminary data suggests that population genetic structure is weak, suggesting that female dispersal is more common than previously believed. These same data will be used to model the influence of land cover on dispersal among colonies, which has become increasingly germane given the scientific speculation that inter-colony dispersal may be partly responsible for the rapid movement of white nose syndrome across the United States.