Fruitbats are ecologically and economically important as pollinators and seed dispersers of many tropical plant species. But, frugivorous bats can also be important microhabitat of many agro-economic fungal groups. The capacity of many fungal species to survive in a wide range of environmental conditions enables them to thrive and reproduce in almost of all habitats in the biosphere, including animal and plant bodies as an advantageous symbiont, parasites, or vectors.
In the Philippines, bat diversity studies are well documented. However, studies on bat-fungi association are rarely explored. Recently, one of my fantastic former undergraduate student and now a colleague explored the presence of agro-economic fungal groups associated from commonly occurring frugivorous bats in southcentral Mindanao. A total of 58 fungal isolates under three fungal genera (Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Fusarium) were detected. Among fruitbats, Cynopterus brachyotis has the highest number of fungal isolates. While Aspergillus was the most common fungal group recorded among fruitbats.
The results of this study may serve as indicators of the impact brought by different land-use changes to bat habitats. The habitat structure plays an important role in disease transfer and spread making it important to maintain the intactness and connectivity of agricultural lands from known bat habitats (ie primary forests). Additionally, the changing environmental conditions such as increasing relative temperature and precipitation, coupled with rapid growth of human populations and urbanization may increase the risk of disease outbreaks in the future as it alters the resistance and susceptibility of an organism towards pathogens (McKee et al. 2004, Gallana et al. 2013, Mann et al. 2015, Newbold et al. 2015). Lastly, the role played by bats in sustaining diverse ecosystem services within agricultural lands should be importantly considered. Particularly, fruitbats are important pollinators of many orchard species such as Durian (Bumrungsri et al. 2013), aside from effective seed dispersers (Kunz et al. 2011).
The assessment and analysis of this study suggest that fruitbats harbor agro-economic fungal groups known to have important roles to different crops in the Philippines. Therefore, this study provides evidentiary support that fruitbats may be important conduits of agro-economic fungal transfer in respect to their dietary requirements and their capacity to traverse from one habitat to another especially from forest to orchard ecosystems. Nevertheless, the study is limited and further quantitative investigations are encouraged to fully understand the roles of fungal symbionts in the ecology and conservation of frugivorous bats.
Read the full article published in Current Research in Environmental and Applied Mycology for more information regarding his work.
Jumao-as C, Cabasan MTN, Manceras LJ, Tabora JAG, Tangonan NGT, Tanalgo KCT 2017 – Presence of important agro-economic fungi in common frugivorous bats from southcentral Mindanao, Philippines. Current Research in Environmental & Applied Mycology 7(2), 73–81, Doi 10.5943/cream/7/2/3
Similar studies on bat-fungi association:
- Seelan SSJ, Anwarali FA. 2009 – Case report of a new pathogenic variant of Aspergillus fumigates isolated from Hipposideros cervinus (Chiroptera: Hipposideridae) in Sarawak, Malaysia. Journal of Threatened Taxa 1, 190-191.
- Seelan JSS, Khan FAA, Muid S, Abdullah MT. 2008 – Bats (chiropteran) reported with Aspergillus species from Kubah National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation 4, 81-97.
- Voyron S, Lazzari A, Riccucci M, Calvini M, Varese GC. 2011 – First mycological investigation on Italian bats. Hystrix 22, 189-197.
Related bat-studies in Mindanao: