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Integrating population genetics to define conservation units from the core to the edge of Rhinolophus ferrumequinum western range

Abstract : The greater horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus ferrumequinum) is among the most widespread bat species in Europe but it has experienced severe declines, especially in Northern Europe. This species is listed Near Threatened in the European IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals, and it is considered to be highly sensitive to human activities and particularly to habitat fragmentation. Therefore, understanding the population boundaries and demographic history of populations of this species is of primary importance to assess relevant conservation strategies. In this study, we used 17 microsatellite markers to assess the genetic diversity, the genetic structure, and the demographic history of R. ferrumequinum colonies in the western part of its distribution. We identified one large population showing high levels of genetic diversity and large population size. Lower estimates were found in England and northern France. Analyses of clustering and isolation by distance suggested that the Channel and the Mediterranean seas could impede R. ferrumequinum gene flow. These results provide important information to improve the delineation of R. ferrumequinum management units. We suggest that a large management unit corresponding to the population ranging from Spanish Basque Country to northern France must be considered. Particular attention should be given to mating territories as they seem to play a key role in maintaining high levels of genetic mixing between colonies. Smaller management units corresponding to English and northern France colonies must also be implemented. These insular or peripheral colonies could be at higher risk of extinction in the near future.
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Orianne Tournayre, Jean-Baptiste Pons, Maxime Leuchtmann, Raphaël Leblois, Sylvain Piry, et al.. Integrating population genetics to define conservation units from the core to the edge of Rhinolophus ferrumequinum western range. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2019, 9, pp.2272-12290. ⟨10.1002/ece3.5714⟩. ⟨hal-02621425⟩

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