Conservation Genetics of the Hawaiian Hoary Bat

Science Center Objects

The Hawaiian Hoary Bat (Lasiurus semotus) or ʻōpeʻapeʻa is the only extant land mammal native to the Hawaiian archipelago and is listed as endangered due to apparent population declines, and a lack of knowledge concerning its distribution, abundance, and habitat needs. This study is designed to apply molecular techniques to document demographic information, assess genetic variability, describe population structure for bat populations across the state of Hawaiְ‘i, and provide accurate sexing information for bat fatalities at wind facilities.


Collect bat tissue for DNA analysis and sex genotyping

  • Obtain samples from existing USGS collection, specimens submitted by wind facilities, Federal and State agencies, and live bats captured during concurrent projects
  • Increase geographic coverage of bats where possible using field captures and recovered specimens
  • Extract and preserve high-quality DNA for molecular studies

Determine population structure of Hawaiian hoary bats across the archipelago using traditional genetic and next generation genomic techniques

  • Sequence the CO1 mitochondrial DNA region for 250+ bats using Sanger sequencing
  • Test and amplify up to 20 microsatellite markers for 250+ individuals using fragment analysis
  • Sequence high-quality bat samples using next generation genomic techniques, construct a reference genome for the Hawaiian hoary bat, and generate a library of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)
  • Analyze population level genetic diversity and associated parameters, maternal and nuclear inter- and intra-island population structure, and estimate rates and direction of potential gene flow
  • Analyze SNPs to detect regions of genomic divergence, potential selection, diversity, and population structure

Estimate historical and current effective sizes and past bottlenecks for island populations on Oahu, Maui, and Hawai‘i 

  • Utilize mitochondrial and microsatellite data to produce estimates of historical female and contemporary effective population sizes
  • Test for presence of past bottlenecks, and recent population expansions and contractions
  • Estimate effective population sizes utilizing genomic markers such as SNPs

Test and utilize a simple genetic method to determine the sex of Hawaiian hoary bats collected from local wind facilities

  • Determine male and female genotypes from over 100 individuals
  • Verify genetic sex determination method for Hawaiian hoary bats by utilizing samples from known sex individuals and applied to carcasses of unknown sex