Combining noninvasive genetics and a new mammalian sex-linked marker provides new tools to investigate population size, structure and individual behaviour An application to bats

Abstract : Monitoring wild populations is crucial for their effective management. Noninvasive genetic methods provide robust data from individual free-ranging animals, which can be used in capture-mark-recapture (CMR) models to estimate demographic parameters without capturing or disturbing them. However, sex- and status-specific behaviour, which may lead to differences in detection probabilities, is rarely considered in monitoring. Here, we investigated population size, sex ratio, sex- and status-related behaviour in 19 Rhinolophus hipposideros maternity colonies (Northern France) with a noninvasive genetic CMR approach (using faeces) combined with parentage assignments. The use of the DDX3X/Y-Mam sexual marker designed in this study, which shows inter- and intrachromosomal length polymorphism across placental mammals, together with eight polymorphic microsatellite markers, produced high-quality genetic data with limited genotyping errors and allowed us to reliably distinguish different categories of individuals (males, reproductive and nonreproductive females) and to estimate population sizes. We showed that visual counts represent well-adult female numbers and that population composition in maternity colonies changes dynamically during the summer. Before parturition, colonies mainly harbour pregnant and nonpregnant females with a few visiting males, whereas after parturition, colonies are mainly composed of mothers and their offspring with a few visiting nonmothers and males. Our approach gives deeper insight into sex- and status-specific behaviour, a prerequisite for understanding population dynamics and developing effective monitoring and management strategies. Provided sufficient samples can be obtained, this approach can be readily applied to a wide range of species.
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Diane Zarzoso-Lacoste, Pierre-Loup Jan, Lisa Lehnen, Thomas Girard, Anne-Laure Besnard, et al.. Combining noninvasive genetics and a new mammalian sex-linked marker provides new tools to investigate population size, structure and individual behaviour An application to bats. Molecular Ecology Resources, Wiley/Blackwell, 2018, 18 (2), pp.217-228. ⟨10.1111/1755-0998.12727⟩. ⟨hal-01769650⟩

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