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Long eared bat hybridization in the UK

Plecotus austriacus, commonly known as grey long eared bats (GLEs), are one of our rarer bat species in the UK, closely related to Plecotus auritus, brown long eared bats (BLE), which are incredibly common. GLEs are particularly interesting because they are climatic indicators; they are currently restricted to southern areas of England, but have been noted in very recent years to be undergoing an expansion northward.

Dr Allaby’s group was the first to genotype the presence of GLE in southern Wales in 2013. However, many sightings have been made of bats which are similar morphometrically to GLEs but have been genotyped as BLE. This raised the questions of whether BLE have a wider morphometric range that was previously appreciated or whether that BLE and GLE have hybridised in recent times. The later may also be implicated in the range expansion of GLE if proven to be true. This project will test several loci of BLEs and GLEs as well as samples that are genotyped BLE but appear to look like GLEs to provide insight to this important conservation question.

This project aimed to amplify several loci from the bat genome from brown long eared (BLE), grey long eared (GLE) and the GLE/BLE samples in the lab using PCR and sequencing DNA to establish whether they are affiliated with BLE or GLE. This evidence will be used to establish whether hybridisation has occurred.

Bonita Chung