Several geographically distinct mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) lineages of the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) have been documented in North America. Individuals from 2 of these lineages, an eastern and a western form, co-occur within maternity colonies in Colorado. The discovery of 2 divergent mtDNA lineages in sympatry prompted a set of questions regarding possible biological differences between haplotypes. We captured big brown bats at maternity roosts in Colorado and recorded data on body size, pelage color, litter size, roosting and overwintering behaviors, and local distributions. Wing biopsies were collected for genetic analysis. The ND2 region of the mtDNA molecule was used to determine lineage of the bats. In addition, nuclear DNA (nDNA) intron 1 of the β-globin gene was used to determine if mtDNA lineages are hybridizing. Eastern and western mtDNA lineages differed by 10.3% sequence divergence and examination of genetic data suggests recent population expansion for both lineages. Differences in distribution occur along the Colorado Front Range, with an increasing proportion of western haplotypes farther south. Results from nDNA analyses demonstrated hybridization between the 2 lineages. Additionally, no outstanding distinctiveness was found between the mtDNA lineages in natural history characters examined. We speculate that historical climate changes separated this species into isolated eastern and western populations, and that secondary contact with subsequent interbreeding was facilitated by European settlement.
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