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Determinants of echolocation call frequency variation in the Formosan lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus monoceros)

Proceedings of The Royal Society B Biological Sciences
The Royal Society
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1185
  • Research Articles
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  • Ecology
  • Geography


The origin and maintenance of intraspecific variation in vocal signals is important for population divergence and speciation. Where vocalizations are transmitted by vertical cultural inheritance, similarity will reflect co-ancestry, and thus vocal divergence should reflect genetic structure. Horseshoe bats are characterized by echolocation calls dominated by a constant frequency component that is partly determined by maternal imprinting. Although previous studies showed that constant frequency calls are also influenced by some non-genetic factors, it is not known how frequency relates to genetic structure. To test this, we related constant frequency variation to genetic and non-genetic variables in the Formosan lesser horseshoe bat (Rhinolophus monoceros). Recordings of bats from across Taiwan revealed that females called at higher frequencies than males; however, we found no effect of environmental or morphological factors on call frequency. By comparison, variation showed clear population structure, with frequencies lower in the centre and east, and higher in the north and south. Within these regions, frequency divergence was directional and correlated with geographical distance, suggesting that call frequencies are subject to cultural drift. However, microsatellite clustering analysis showed that broad differences in constant frequency among populations corresponded to discontinuities in allele frequencies resulting from vicariant events. Our results provide evidence that the processes shaping genetic subdivision have concomitant consequences for divergence in echolocation call frequency.

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