Student Summer Scholars


Virginia Big-eared bat, WNS, effective population size, Extended Bayesian skyline plot, Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus


Animal Sciences | Life Sciences




Genetic diversity is an important contributor to the fitness of a species as variation allows species to adapt to changing environments or emerging diseases. Neutrally evolving markers such as microsatellites allow an estimate of a species’ effective population size (Ne), unbiased by selective forces. Microsatellites are useful in detecting relatively recent changes in Ne due to their abundance in the genome, polymorphic nature, and high mutation rate. By looking at current Ne and at changes in this parameter over time, past events such as population bottlenecks or episodes of significant population growth can be inferred. White-nose syndrome (WNS), first detected in North America in 2006, has caused severe population declines in several species of hibernating bats. However, the federally endangered Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii virginianus) is not affected by Pd and has undergone some increase in population size. This may be due to increase access to resources as other hibernating species decline. Due to the emergence of WNS, it is likely there has been some change in diversity and Ne for this species; however, because this is such a recent event, it may be too early to be detected in the genetics. Also, the pre-WNS effects of anthropogenic population decline are still very recent and may have a stronger influence on the genetics. Using frequency-based diversity measures and coalescent-based extended Bayesian skyline plot (EBSP) analyses to estimate Ne values, we determined that neither of these effects could be seen in the genetics of C. t. virginianus at this time.