Silke A. Riesle‐Sbarbaro1,2  | Kofi Amponsah‐Mensah4 | Stefan de Vries1 | Violaine Nicolas3  | Aude Lalis3 | Richard Suu‐Ire4,5 | Andrew A. Cunningham2  | James L. N. Wood1 | David R. Sargan1

1Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
2Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, London, UK
3Institut Systématique Evolution Biodiversité (ISYEB), Sorbonne Université, MNHN, CNRS, EPHE, Paris, France
4Centre for African Wetlands, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra, Ghana
5Wildlife Division of the Forestry Commission, Accra, Ghana


The Gambian epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus gambianus) is an abundant species that roosts in both urban and rural settings. The possible role of E. gambianus as a reservoir host of zoonotic diseases underlines the need to better understand the species movement patterns. So far, neither observational nor phylogenetic studies have identified the dispersal range or behavior of this species. Comparative analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear markers from 20 localities across the known distribution of E. gambianus showed population panmixia, except for the populations in Ethiopia and southern Ghana (Accra and Ve‐Golokwati). The Ethiopian population may be ancestral and is highly divergent to the species across the rest of its range, possibly reflecting isolation of an ancient colonization along an east–west axis. Mitochondrial haplotypes in the Accra population display a strong signature of a past bottleneck event; evidence of either an ancient or recent bottleneck using microsatellite data, however, was not detected. Demographic analyses identified population expansion in most of the colonies, except in the female line of descent in the Accra population. The molecular analyses of the colonies from Ethiopia and southern Ghana show gender dispersal bias, with the mitochondrial DNA fixation values over ten times those of the nuclear markers. These findings indicate free mixing of the species across great distances, which should inform future epidemiological studies.

Africa, bottleneck, Epomophorus gambianus, gene flow, mitochondrial DNA, nuclear microsatellites

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