Vertebrate mating systems are influenced by ecological and phylogenetic factors, and the variation observed in mating behavior is frequently attributable to the extent to which male assistance in the rearing of offspring increases a female's reproductive rate, size and stability of female groups, and density and distribution of females in space. In this study we evaluate patterns of association and parentage to describe the mating system of the tent-making bat Artibeus watsoni. During 16 consecutive months, we regularly surveyed 2 sites in southwestern Costa Rica and determined size, composition, and stability of social groups, and established patterns of parentage within roosts. We found female-biased, mixed-sex social groups formed by individuals located in several roosts within an area. Roosting associations were low (average across all sites: 31%), and the frequent changes between roosting partners suggests that males and females formed nonexclusive mating bonds, which was further supported by our finding that only 27% of young were sired by the male within a roosting group. Paternal sibships were only observed in 17% of dyads of young roosting together, indicating that few males copulated with >1 female of the roosting group during the mating season. However, paternal sibships were only observed in Golfito, which could be explained by greater group size and stability attributable to lower roost availability. Thus, our findings are consistent with a polygynandrous mating system (2 or several males sharing access to 2 or several females, and vice versa) in which males associated intermittently with females that frequently switched roosts, and where breeding opportunities for males seemed related to the defense of roosts, roosting territories, or both.
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