The social organization of the common vampire bat

II. Mating system, genetic structure, and relatedness

Summary

Variability at seven polymorphic allozyme loci and observations of dispersal and mating provide evidence for nonrandom genetic structure among adult female groups of the highly social bat, Desmodus rotundus. The average degree of relatedness, estimated by allelic correlations at each locus, within three and six groups of females is 0.018 (SE=0.013) and 0.032 (SE=0.023), respectively. Even though these estimates do not differ significantly from zero, a multivariate analysis of variance of individual allele frequencies reveals that three of six pairwise comparisons of groups reach significance. This genetic heterogeneity within a population does not lead to increased genetic subdivision between populations. Mean classificatory ability of the discriminant functions drops from 84% for assignment to group to 56% for assignment to population. This pattern of genetic variability is due to recruitment of female offspring into their natal groups and forced male dispersal. Occasional movements of unrelated females between groups lead to the formation of multiple matrilines within groups. Although males fight viciously for access to the top of preferred female roosting sites and top males mate preferentially with females in that roost, mean maximum paternity for top males is only 46%. Consequently, male mating success is sufficiently random to maintain gametic equilibria among all pairs of loci. Given an infant mortality of 54%, mean male tenure of 17 months, and a birth interval of 10 months, females are unlikely to be related through common male ancestors. In one group, the average degree of relatedness, derived from matrilineal pedigrees, is 0.11 (SD=0.17). Computer simulations of the growth of a group of female D. routundus show that the low level of relatedness within groups is expected even if the proportion of unrelated females allowed into a group decreases. This pattern holds for any animal which recruits one sex into its social group and has relatively high juvenile mortality followed by low adult mortality.

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Wilkinson, G.S. The social organization of the common vampire bat. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 17, 123–134 (1985). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00299244

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Keywords

  • Birth Interval
  • Allozyme Locus
  • Male Mating Success
  • Adult Female Group
  • Unrelated Female