July 19, 2019  |  

Bats may eat diurnal flies that rest on wind turbines

Bats are currently killed in large numbers at wind turbines worldwide, but the ultimate reason why this happens remains poorly understood. One hypothesis is that bats visit wind turbines to feed on insects exposed at the turbine towers. We used single molecule next generation DNA sequencing to identify stomach contents of 18 bats of four species (Pipistrellus pygmaeus, Nyctalus noctula, Eptesicus nilssonii and Vespertilio murinus) found dead under wind turbines in southern Sweden. Stomach contents were diverse but included typically diurnal flies, e.g. blow-flies (Calliphoridae), flesh-flies (Sarcophagidae) and houseflies (Muscidae) and also several flightless taxa. Such prey items were eaten by all bat species and at all wind turbine localities and it seems possible that they had been captured at or near the surface of the turbines at night. Using sticky traps, we documented an abundance of swarming (diurnal) ants (Myrmica spp.) and sometimes blow-flies and houseflies at the nacelle house. Near the base of the tower the catches were more diverse and corresponded better with the taxa found in the bat stomachs, including various diurnal flies. To evaluate if flies and other insects resting on the surface of a wind turbine are available to bats, we ensonified a house fly (Musca) on a smooth (plastic) surface with synthetic ultrasonic pulses of the frequencies used by the bat species that we had sampled. The experiment revealed potentially useful echoes, provided the attack angle was low and the frequency high (50–75 kHz). Hence resting flies and other arthropods can probably be detected by echolocating bats on the surface of a wind turbine. Our findings are consistent with published observations of the behavior of bats at wind turbines and may actually explain the function of some of these behaviors.


July 19, 2019  |  

Extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light in the fungal pathogen causing white-nose syndrome of bats.

Bat white-nose syndrome (WNS), caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans, has decimated North American hibernating bats since its emergence in 2006. Here, we utilize comparative genomics to examine the evolutionary history of this pathogen in comparison to six closely related nonpathogenic species. P. destructans displays a large reduction in carbohydrate-utilizing enzymes (CAZymes) and in the predicted secretome (~50%), and an increase in lineage-specific genes. The pathogen has lost a key enzyme, UVE1, in the alternate excision repair (AER) pathway, which is known to contribute to repair of DNA lesions induced by ultraviolet (UV) light. Consistent with a nonfunctional AER pathway, P. destructans is extremely sensitive to UV light, as well as the DNA alkylating agent methyl methanesulfonate (MMS). The differential susceptibility of P. destructans to UV light in comparison to other hibernacula-inhabiting fungi represents a potential “Achilles’ heel” of P. destructans that might be exploited for treatment of bats with WNS.


July 7, 2019  |  

Surveillance of bat coronaviruses in Kenya identifies relatives of human coronaviruses NL63 and 229E and their recombination history.

Bats harbor a large diversity of coronaviruses (CoVs), several of which are related to zoonotic pathogens that cause severe disease in humans. Our screening of bat samples collected in Kenya from 2007 to 2010 not only detected RNA from several novel CoVs but, more significantly, identified sequences that were closely related to human CoVs NL63 and 229E, suggesting that these two human viruses originate from bats. We also demonstrated that human CoV NL63 is a recombinant between NL63-like viruses circulating in Triaenops bats and 229E-like viruses circulating in Hipposideros bats, with the breakpoint located near 5′ and 3′ ends of the spike (S) protein gene. In addition, two further interspecies recombination events involving the S gene were identified, suggesting that this region may represent a recombination “hot spot” in CoV genomes. Finally, using a combination of phylogenetic and distance-based approaches, we showed that the genetic diversity of bat CoVs is primarily structured by host species and subsequently by geographic distances.IMPORTANCE Understanding the driving forces of cross-species virus transmission is central to understanding the nature of disease emergence. Previous studies have demonstrated that bats are the ultimate reservoir hosts for a number of coronaviruses (CoVs), including ancestors of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and human CoV 229E (HCoV-229E). However, the evolutionary pathways of bat CoVs remain elusive. We provide evidence for natural recombination between distantly related African bat coronaviruses associated with Triaenops afer and Hipposideros sp. bats that resulted in a NL63-like virus, an ancestor of the human pathogen HCoV-NL63. These results suggest that interspecies recombination may play an important role in CoV evolution and the emergence of novel CoVs with zoonotic potential. Copyright © 2017 American Society for Microbiology.


July 7, 2019  |  

Recent expansion and adaptive evolution of the carcinoembryonic antigen family in bats of the Yangochiroptera subgroup.

Expansions of gene families are predictive for ongoing genetic adaptation to environmental cues. We describe such an expansion of the carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) gene family in certain bat families. Members of the CEA family in humans and mice are exploited as cellular receptors by a number of pathogens, possibly due to their function in immunity and reproduction. The CEA family is composed of CEA-related cell adhesion molecules (CEACAMs) and secreted pregnancy-specific glycoproteins (PSGs). PSGs are almost exclusively expressed by trophoblast cells at the maternal-fetal interface. The reason why PSGs exist only in a minority of mammals is still unknown.Analysis of the CEA gene family in bats revealed that in certain bat families, belonging to the subgroup Yangochiroptera but not the Yinpterochiroptera subgroup an expansion of the CEA gene family took place, resulting in approximately one hundred CEA family genes in some species of the Vespertilionidae. The majority of these genes encode secreted PSG-like proteins (further referred to as PSG). Remarkably, we found strong evidence that the ligand-binding domain (IgV-like domain) of PSG is under diversifying positive selection indicating that bat PSGs may interact with structurally highly variable ligands. Such ligands might represent bacterial or viral pathogen adhesins. We have identified two distinct clusters of PSGs in three Myotis species. The two PSG cluster differ in the amino acids under positive selection. One cluster was only expanded in members of the Vespertilionidae while the other was found to be expanded in addition in members of the Miniopteridae and Mormoopidae. Thus one round of PSG expansion may have occurred in an ancestry of all three families and a second only in Vespertilionidae. Although maternal ligands of PSGs may exist selective challenges by two distinct pathogens seem to be likely responsible for the expansion of PSGs in Vespertilionidae.The rapid expansion of PSGs in certain bat species together with selection for diversification suggest that bat PSGs could be part of a pathogen defense system by serving as decoy receptors and/or regulators of feto-maternal interactions.


July 7, 2019  |  

Use of multiple sequencing technologies to produce a high-quality genome of the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the causative agent of bat white-nose syndrome.

White-nose syndrome has recently emerged as one of the most devastating wildlife diseases recorded, causing widespread mortality in numerous bat species throughout eastern North America. Here, we present an improved reference genome of the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans for use in comparative genomic studies. Copyright © 2016 Drees et al.


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