A comparative analysis of viral richness and viral sharing in cave-roosting bats

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Abstract

Caves provide critical roosting habitats for bats globally, but are increasingly disturbed or destroyed by human activities such as tourism and extractive industries. In addition to degrading the habitats of cave-roosting bats, such activities often promote contact between humans and bats, which may have potential impacts on human health. Cave-roosting bats are hosts to diverse viruses, some of which emerged in humans with severe consequences (e.g., severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Marburg virus). Characterizing patterns of viral richness and sharing among bat species are therefore important first steps for understanding bat-virus dynamics and mitigating future bat-human spillover. Here we compile a database of bat-virus associations and bat species ecological traits, and investigate the importance of roosting behavior as a determinant of viral richness and viral sharing among bat species. We show that cave-roosting species do not host greater viral richness, when accounting for publication bias, diet, body mass, and geographic range size. Our global analyses, however, show that cave-roosting bats do exhibit a greater likelihood of viral sharing, especially those documented in the literature as co-roosting in the same cave. We highlight the importance of caves as critical foci for bat conservation, as well as ideal sites for longitudinal surveillance of bat-virus dynamics.

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Willoughby, A. R., Phelps, K. L., Predict Consortium, predict@ucdavis edu, & Olival, K. J. (2017). A comparative analysis of viral richness and viral sharing in cave-roosting bats. Diversity, 9(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/d9030035

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