First Advisor

Debbie Duffield

Term of Graduation

Winter 1999

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources: Biology


Environmental Sciences and Resources




Captive wild animals -- Genetics, Straw-colored fruit bat



Physical Description

1 online resource (vi, 129 pages)


Small populations tend to lose genetic variability. The magnitude of this loss is influenced by the number of founding individuals, the genetic diversity of the founders, and the species mating system. Genetic variability is the basis of adaptive evolution, and the loss of genetic variability may have harmful effects on development, growth, and survival. Therefore, a primary management goal for small, captive populations is the retention of genetic variability. Of considerable importance to conservation biology is the determination of parentage, from which mating, genetic, and demographic information can be derived. Microsatellites provide a robust molecular evolutionary tool for the study of parentage and genetic variability in populations. When investigating the genetic structure of small populations, mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), because of its clonal-maternal inheritance, is unparalleled as a marker of maternal relationship. In this study of 123 captive straw­colored fruit bats (Eidolon helvum), relatedness, parentage, change in genetic diversity over time, and the captive mating system were evaluated using microsatellite and mtDNA analysis. This study is unique in that founders and twenty subsequent overlapping generations were analyzed. It represents that first genetic study of this species. Contrary to expectations for small populations, the captive population of E. helvum has not experienced a decrease in heterozygosity or allelic diversity, as measured by microsatellite analysis. Neither direct evidence from microsatellite analysis nor gene-drop simulation analysis suggest that genetic drift has played an important role in this population. The captive population of Eidolon helvum is well suited for captivity, and has displayed reproductive strategies that minimize the obstacles associated with small populations. A random mating system, rapid population growth, overlapping generations, and long-term, near-equivalent founder contribution have proven to be highly successful in maintaining genetic diversity and demographic stability in this small population. Thus, the reproductive strategy of the captive population of E. helvum serves as an excellent model that can be applied to other small populations. It is certainly possible that from the eleven founders a genetically viable, self-sustaining, captive population of Eidolon helvum can be established.


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