Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 91–102 | Cite as

Genetic diversity is maintained in the endangered New Zealand long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus) despite a closed social structure and regular population crashes

  • Colin F. J. O’ Donnell
  • Sarah Richter
  • Serena Dool
  • Joanne M. Monks
  • Gerald Kerth
Research Article


Maintaining the genetic diversity of populations is important in conservation because it strongly influences the ability to adapt to changing environments. We characterised the genetic structure of the endemic and endangered New Zealand (NZ) long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus) in two valleys in Fiordland, NZ. Fiordland is one of the last strongholds of the species, which has drastically declined throughout NZ. C. tuberculatus has suffered from recent habitat fragmentation and episodic predation by exotic mammals over the last 150 years. Gene flow and structuring were measured using nine nuclear microsatellite loci. In addition, the hyper-variable domain HVI of the mitochondrial control region was sequenced to analyse population structure at the maternal level. Our results show that the nine colonies studied have retained high genetic diversity, with moderate signs of genetic bottlenecks. Furthermore, low F ST and F IS values indicated that all colonies are still connected by gene flow and do not show signs of inbreeding. Substantial gene flow among colonies was also demonstrated by Bayesian clustering and PCA analysis. At the mitochondrial level, substantial differentiation between colonies has resulted from strong natal philopatry in females. Overall, our results indicate that genetic diversity is maintained in the Fiordland population of C. tuberculatus despite regular population crashes and habitat fragmentation. Management should ensure that remaining habitat linkages are preserved and further predator-induced population bottlenecks are prevented so that current genetic diversity is maintained in the long-term.


Bottleneck Chiroptera Dispersal Invasive species Islands Population genetics 



Thank you to Will Batson, Iris Broekema, Jo Carpenter, Emilie Chavel, Petrina Duncan, Nicola Fullerton, Sarah King, Jono More, Dan Palmer, Jason and Maddie Van de Wetering and Emma Williams for assisting with collecting tissue samples in the field, Hannah Edmonds and Warren Simpson for discovering the Iris Burn colony and enabling us to sample at the site, Ina Roemer, Alain Frantz, and Sebastien Puechmaille for their help with genetic analyses, and Richard Earl for drawing Fig. 1. We also thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on the manuscript. This study formed part of the Department of Conservation Science Investigation 4230 and tissue sampling was conducted under DOC Animal Ethics Committee permits AEC 220 and AEC 234.

Supplementary material

10592_2015_763_MOESM1_ESM.docx (970 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 970 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Science and Capability Group, Department of ConservationChristchurchNew Zealand
  2. 2.Zoological Institute & MuseumGreifswald UniversityGreifswaldGermany
  3. 3.Science and Capability Group, Department of ConservationDunedinNew Zealand

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