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Why Bats Matter?

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When we talk about bats, all that comes to our minds are vampire bats or bat-borne diseases, but have you ever wondered why bats matter?

Bats are not just vampire bats that we are always afraid of; there are more than 1,300 species and most of them feed on fruits and insects. Vampire bats are very few, compared to other ones; moreover, they do not feed on human blood as old stories insisted, but they prefer cattle and horse blood.

Interestingly, bats are unique in several aspects; they are the only mammals that can fly, and they are not blind as we thought. They can see very well in the morning, but they prefer to get their food in the dark of the night, so most of them depend on their amazing echolocation system to locate their food. They send very high-pitched soundwaves that travel until they hit an object and then return back, allowing the bat to know the exact location of the object, as well as its size.

Bats existence is very important to us, as most of them feed on insects, which makes them a natural, free, and safe insecticide for us. However, bat-borne diseases are nowadays a nightmare to all of us, as those viruses are very virulent with a very high destructive power. Bats are the main cause for transmission of Corona, Ebola, Rabies, and many other viruses.

In order to survive, bats have a very strong immune system, which causes any virus that invades them to suffer a lot trying to adapt. As a result, viruses replicate faster and become the strongest and the most virulent types inside bat bodies than in any other creature. Moreover, there is a signaling protein in the immune system that is known as “interferon”, which is used as a signal by the infected cell to notify the neighboring cells that there is a viral attack, to develop into an antiviral state. This process should cause inflammation, fever, and illness, but bats are adapted to minimize inflammation so no signs will appear on them. This incredible immune response allows the virus to stay in the bat’s body for its whole life without causing it any harm.

The reason to outbreaks is that humans approach bat habitats, stressing them and causing them to shed those virulent viruses through their urine, saliva, and fecal matter. Bats’ nature of hosting very virulent viruses may be just to make them able to cope with their life in the wild; scientists are still trying to discover more about this.

References

bats.org.uk

discovermagazine.com

nationalgeographic.com

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