Date of this Version
Published in S. C. Loeb, M. J. Lacki,and D. A. Miller, editors. Conservation and management of eastern big-eared bats: a symposium. USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station, General Technical Report SRS-145, Asheville, North Carolina.
Rafinesque’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus rafinesquii) is distributed across the Southeastern United States. Due to habitat loss and low population numbers, this species is a Federal species of concern and protected by every State within its range. Effective management of any species of concern is dependent on an unambiguous understanding of taxonomic relationships. However, for this species, there are discordant inferences about subspecific designations from previous studies. Further, there have been no assessments of population genetic status for this species. Such assessments could provide information on genetic diversity and population connectivity and increase our understanding of the need for management and conservation of this species. Therefore, our goals were to assess population level genetic diversity and connectivity among 5 colonies in Arkansas (139 individuals) and to infer the evolutionary relationships of these bats to C. rafinesquii collected across its distribution (additional 216 individuals). We used mitochondrial DNA control region sequences and 11 microsatellite loci to infer genetic relationships, estimate levels of genetic diversity, and examine population connectivity among 5 colonies in Arkansas. Although we identified two phylogenetically divergent mitochondrial DNA lineages, these correspond to neither current subspecific designation nor nonoverlapping geographical groups. Genetic diversity and population connectivity estimated from mitochondrial DNA was high in Arkansas populations probably due to occurrence of both evolutionary lineages within each colony. However, estimates from microsatellite DNA of genetic diversity, population connectivity, and effective population sizes in these populations were low. Further, our results suggested a weak signal of population bottleneck in Arkansas colonies and low genetic connectivity. Current conservation efforts should continue to focus on protection of roosts and improvement of habitat corridors to connect populations.