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Genetic structure, spatial organization, and dispersal in two populations of bat-eared foxes

Ecology and Evolution
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1002/ece3.683
  • Original Research


We incorporated radio-telemetry data with genetic analysis of bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) from individuals in 32 different groups to examine relatedness and spatial organization in two populations in South Africa that differed in density, home-range sizes, and group sizes. Kin clustering occurred only for female dyads in the high-density population. Relatedness was negatively correlated with distance only for female dyads in the high-density population, and for male and mixed-sex dyads in the low-density population. Home-range overlap of neighboring female dyads was significantly greater in the high compared to low-density population, whereas overlap within other dyads was similar between populations. Amount of home-range overlap between neighbors was positively correlated with genetic relatedness for all dyad-site combinations, except for female and male dyads in the low-density population. Foxes from all age and sex classes dispersed, although females (mostly adults) dispersed farther than males. Yearlings dispersed later in the high-density population, and overall exhibited a male-biased dispersal pattern. Our results indicated that genetic structure within populations of bat-eared foxes was sex-biased, and was interrelated to density and group sizes, as well as sex-biases in philopatry and dispersal distances. We conclude that a combination of male-biased dispersal rates, adult dispersals, and sex-biased dispersal distances likely helped to facilitate inbreeding avoidance in this evolutionarily unique species of Canidae.

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