The Relative Roles of Selection and Drift in Phenotypic Variation: Some Like It Hot, Some Like It Wet

  • David S. JacobsEmail author
  • Gregory L. Mutumi


Acoustic signals mediate important functions, e.g. orientation, foraging and communication, that impact on the survival and reproduction of animals. The propagation of acoustic signals is also known to be influenced by habitat, particularly differences in climate. It is therefore likely that the environment would exert significant influence on such signals and that selection rather than drift would be largely responsible for geographic variation in acoustic signals. We investigated the role of selection and drift in geographic variation in the echolocation of two species of horseshoe bats Rhinolophus damarensis and R. clivosus (Rhinolophidae) with wide geographic distributions across the arid and mesic biomes of southern Africa. In both species, selection was found to be the dominant evolutionary process influencing phenotypic variation; however, there was evidence of drift in R. clivosus. Furthermore, selection was not differentially exerted across populations because there was no change in the results when localities were excluded one at a time. Population divergence appeared to be mediated by selection on traits associated with manoeuvrability, detection and size in both species despite their disparate distributions. However, the climatic factor that best explained geographic variation in echolocation was dependent on the biomes occupied by the species. Temperature was the dominant climatic factor in R. damarensis, a species with a largely arid distribution. In R. clivosus, a species with distributions across both mesic and arid biomes, temperature and relative humidity together explained variation in echolocation.



We thank Pierre Pontarotti for inviting us to contribute to this volume. We are grateful to many people who helped with sample collection and logistics in the field particularly, Prof. Peter Mundy of the National University of Science and Technology, Dr. H. Madzikanda of the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority, Tinyiko Maluleke, Blessing Buleya, Reason Nyengera, Orsila Smit, Megan Cunnama, Ellenor Salo, Lizelle Odendaal, Serena Doole and Nyasha Gondo. Special thanks to Eugene Marais who provided invaluable information on Namibian bat roosts and the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism and the Northern Cape for permission to do this research. For guidance in statistical analysis and editing the R script, we thank Rebecca Ackermann and Andrew Conith. This research was supported by grants to DSJ from the University of Cape Town and the South African Research Chair Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, administered by the National Research Foundation (GUN 64798).


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of Cape TownCape TownSouth Africa
  2. 2.School of Natural SciencesUniversity of CaliforniaMercedUSA

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