Exploring the genome and transcriptome of the cave nectar bat Eonycteris spelaea with PacBio long-read sequencing. Background: In the past two decades, bats have emerged as an important model system to study host-pathogen interactions. More recently, it has been shown that bats may also serve as a new and excellent model to study aging, inflammation, and cancer, among other important biological processes. The cave nectar bat or lesser dawn bat Eonycteris spelaea is known to be a reservoir for several viruses and intracellular bacteria.
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Do you like petai? It turns out some bats, like the dawn bat, do a great job ferrying pollen among durian Durio flowers and petai Parkia flowers. Without these bats, there would be no pollination, no durians or petai. Zubaid shares his thoughts on bats and how dawn bats affect durian fruits in Perak. In mainland Southeast Asia, the dawn bat is one of three common nectarivorous bat species—they drink nectar from flowers.
All nectarivorous bats sport similar faces: a long muzzle that opens to allow a long tongue to reach into flowers and slurp nectar. They search for flowering trees in forests, orchards and house gardens. They can also fly far for food. In a study, dawn bats were found to have fed on mangrove tree flowers, and the nearest known mangroves were almost 40 kilometers away. Recent researchers in southern Thailand had fitted dawn bats with radio-collars and found them flying up to 18 kilometers away.
And when dawn bats congregate in high numbers, they must fly further to look for food, says Zubaid. By transferring pollen between flowers, dawn bats help pollinate them. This includes durian, petai, banana Musa , and mangrove trees e. Zubaid describes how he and his students check what bats ate for dinner. Dawn bats live in caves, often closer to the entrance. They also make the most noise, along with the fruit bats. In contrast, the insect-eating bats are near silent and roost deeper in caves.
At dusk, dawn bats stream out of caves to feed, returning to roost before dawn. Once the bats have fed, they return to rest in caves. Hanging off the ceiling and walls, they drop their faeces, or guano, to the ground below. Guano fills pits and piles into mounds, sometimes several meters high. For many cave residents, guano is a rich, if not the only, source of nutrients and energy brought from the outside world into the cave.
Dawn bats roost in large colonies of up to tens of thousands as documented in undisturbed caves in southern Thailand. Imagine the amount of guano dropping from the ceiling! While dawn bats can roost under buildings or inside large drains, they thrive best in undisturbed caves in limestone hills.
But such caves are often disturbed or destroyed by quarries, temples and tourism, says Zubaid. And shrinking forests means less food for dawn bats. So how can these bats be conserved? Give them places to live and feed, says Zubaid. What bats need, according to Zubaid. So, the next time you enjoy durians or petai, think of how you can help the dawn bats that make these delights possible.
Cave nectar bat
Dawn Bat (Eonycteris spelaea)