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A Triple-Isotope Approach to Predict the Breeding Origins of European Bats

By Ana G. Popa-Lisseanu, Karin Sörgel, Anja Luckner, Leonard I. Wassenaar, Carlos Ibáñez, Stephanie Kramer-Schadt, Mateusz Ciechanowski, Tamás Görföl, Ivo Niermann, Grégory Beuneux, Robert W. Mysłajek, Javier Juste, Jocelyn Fonderflick, Detlev H. Kelm and Christian C. Voigt


Despite a commitment by the European Union to protect its migratory bat populations, conservation efforts are hindered by a poor understanding of bat migratory strategies and connectivity between breeding and wintering grounds. Traditional methods like mark-recapture are ineffective to study broad-scale bat migratory patterns. Stable hydrogen isotopes (δD) have been proven useful in establishing spatial migratory connectivity of animal populations. Before applying this tool, the method was calibrated using bat samples of known origin. Here we established the potential of δD as a robust geographical tracer of breeding origins of European bats by measuring δD in hair of five sedentary bat species from 45 locations throughout Europe. The δD of bat hair strongly correlated with well-established spatial isotopic patterns in mean annual precipitation in Europe, and therefore was highly correlated with latitude. We calculated a linear mixed-effects model, with species as random effect, linking δD of bat hair to precipitation δD of the areas of hair growth. This model can be used to predict breeding origins of European migrating bats. We used δ13C and δ15N to discriminate among potential origins of bats, and found that these isotopes can be used as variables to further refine origin predictions. A triple-isotope approach could thereby pinpoint populations or subpopulations that have distinct origins. Our results further corroborated stable isotope analysis as a powerful method to delineate animal migrations in Europe

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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