Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Genetic Demography of Pteronotus Parnellii Reveals Historic Isolation of Island Populations




College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Pteronotus parnellii is a widespread Neotropical bat. In its echolocation characteristics, it is unique in the New World, obligately using long-duration constant frequency (CF) calls with Doppler shift compensation (DSC). This highly sophisticated echolocation strategy is only also seen in the Old World horshoe bats yet key aspects of their echolocation, such as oral vs. nasal emission, suggest these are convergent traits in P. parnellii versus horseshoe bats. CF echolocation is arguably an adaptive innovation, in that it allows access to cluttered habitats that are not available to species using frequency-modulated (FM) echolocation. Our analyses of P. parnellii populations from Puerto Rico and Hispaniola reveal a significant shift in both echolocation frequency and body size between islands. As expressed in P. parnellii, CF echolocation requires a hard-wired connection between echolocation frequency and neuroanatomy, suggesting that the evolution of CF echolocation and subsequent shifts in call frequency involves adaptive genetic change at many loci. We present the results of an analysis of the genetic demography of Caribbean populations of P. parnellii. We found that area strongly predicts population size across both space and time; the common ancestor of modern populations in Puerto Rico and Hispaniola was likely located in Hispaniola and was significantly larger than either current population. Divergence of island populations dates to the Pleistocene, and has been followed by extremely low levels of inter-island migration. Having an accurate understanding of the demographic history of these populations is key to assessing potential signals of selection at loci involved in echolocation.

Conference Name

North American Symposium on Bat Research

Conference Location

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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