How extreme heat events are impacting Indian flying foxes in Pakistan: Touseef’s work broadcasted on DW News

The effects of climate change have led to an increase in extreme heat events, causing mass deaths among fruit bats of the genus Pteropus in various parts of the world. The Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius) is facing a shrinking habitat, and its distribution has shifted from southern to central and northern regions in Pakistan to escape rising temperatures and heat events. This DW News documentary covered our research work on “Effect of Extreme Heat on Indian flying foxes in Pakistan“.

Touseef is selected for Verena Fellows in Residence Program

Touseef has been selected for the inaugural cohort of the Verena Initiative Fellows in Residence Program to build upon his existing research work. He will conduct his lab work at Colorado State University in June 2023 in collaboration with Dr. Anna Fagre, who is Research Lead for Biology Integration at Verena.

The Inaugural Cohort of the Verena Initiative Fellows in Residence

This fellowship will enable Touseef to build upon his existing research work by including bat-borne DNA viruses’ propagation. He will be investigating the impact of heat stress and dietary deficiency in propagation of DNA viruses by Indian flying foxes in the environment.

Verena Fellows in Residence Profile. Find More here.

Touseef Presents Poster on Future Directions for One Health Research at 7th World One Health Congress 2022 in Singapore

Touseef posed in front of his poster titled “Future directions for One Health Research; Regional and Sectoral Gaps

A competitive Travel Award by the Congress Organizing Committee enabled Touseef to attend the 7th World One Health Congress in Singapore to present his research “Future directions for One Health Research: Regional and Sectoral Gaps”. The concept of One Health highlights the important inter-relationships between health and well-being of people, animals, plants, and the environment which supports their existence. However, implementation of a One Health approach varies considerably between different geographical regions and remains challenging to implement without greater inclusivity of different disciplinary capacity and expertise. Identifying regional and sectoral gaps will help achieve One Health research parity.

Geographic distribution of One Health research. Comparison of abstract distributions from 1st and 6th World One Health Congress based on study sites, affiliation of corresponding authors, and international collaborations. Contributions to international collaborations were calculated as the difference between the number of studies conducted in the country and the number of corresponding author affiliations from the country. Negative and positive values indicate sink (received collaboration) and source (extended collaboration) of One Health research. Source countries such as US and UK for the 1st and 6th WOHC are indicated by yellowish green color while sink countries such as India and Pakistan for both Conferences are indicated by dark blue color. Check out our interactive web maps here!

Bangladesh Has at Least 31 Bat Species! – Ashraf’s first PhD paper is out

Bat research is limited in Bangladesh, so to date estimates of bat diversity in the country have been based on a few ad hoc studies and expert opinion.  To gain a more complete understanding, Ashraf compiled species occurrence data from the literature, museum records and the Global Biodiversity Information Framework (GBIF). He set out to confirm species presence and identify species that might be expected to occur in Bangladesh based on occurrence records in neighboring countries and habitat preferences. To visualize the distribution of bats, Ashraf made maps for each species recorded from Bangladesh and species that might occur in the country.

He found a total of 31 species are recorded for Bangladesh – but only 22 are associated with voucher records. Evidence for nine species came from photographs and/or human observation. An additional 81 species were recorded from surrounding countries. Of these, 38 species are highly likely to occur in Bangladesh.

Ashraf holding a female Greater false vampire bat (Lyroderma lyra) carrying its pup captured from his study site in Bangladesh

So what is next? To expand the country list, Ashraf recommended that surveys of bats in Protected Areas, caves and wetlands be prioritized. Surveys should use multiple methods, including contemporary techniques (harp traps and acoustics) that have not been used in Bangladesh before, as well as traditional ones (mist nets). He emphasized that voucher specimen collections are needed to confirm the presence of and distribution of bats in Bangladesh and identify areas central to bat conservation.

The locality records based on Ashraf’s study show the distribution of Greater false vampire bat (Lyroderma lyra) in Bangladesh

Citation: Ul Hasan, M. A., & Kingston, T. (2022). Bats of Bangladesh—A Systematic Review of the Diversity and Distribution with Recommendations for Future Research. Diversity, 14(12), 1042. https://doi.org/10.3390/d14121042

Publication link: https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/14/12/1042

Supplementary Materials (Listing S1, and Scheme S1): https://www.mdpi.com/article/10.3390/d14121042/s1

Supplementary Materials (Figure S1, Figure S2, Table S1, Table S2): https://datadryad.org/stash/dataset/doi:10.5061/dryad.5tb2rbp7j

Ashraf’s First Field Season Yields ~550 Bats and ~17 Species!

Research assistants (Left to right – Tania Akhter and Rifat Hasan) in the field collecting tissue and fecal samples.

Ashraf just finished his long waited first season of fieldwork this Summer 2022 in Bangladesh. The field season started with a Seminar as Dr. Tigga Kingston was invited to speak at the Jagannath University, Dhaka, Bangladesh as keynote speaker. Dr. Kingston’s talk was entitled “Diversity and Conservation of Bats in Paleotropics”. A further talk was given by Ashraf on the human dimension of bats and current bat research in Bangladesh, and the project “Bats of Bangladesh: Bat Assemblage Structure and Species Responses to Land-use Change” he was undertaking. Later, Dr. Kingston visited Ashraf’s field site to see if the study design was feasible and build bat research capacity. As part of the capacity building, Ashraf, and his team (4 students) received hands-on training on complementary field methods such as harp traps, mist nets, and acoustics to capture and record bats. They also got training on collecting morphometric data of bats and taxonomy.

In this season, Ashraf worked in three protected areas of Bangladesh. He and his team caught ~550 bats and ~17 species!  The project was funded by the Rufford Foundation, Bat Conservation International, Michelle C. Knapp Memorial Scholarship, and obviously, the equipment support was provided by the Kingston Lab.

Postdoctoral Researcher on Bat Microbiomes

The labs of Tigga Kingston and Caleb Phillips at Texas Tech University are seeking to fill a post-doc position as part of the National Science Foundation-supported project “Community processes structuring assembly and disassembly of bat gut-microbial communities across a gradient of habitat degradation”. This project integrates bat genetics, molecular dietary analysis, and microbiome data from forest interior insectivorous bats sampled across a habitat degradation gradient in Malaysia with the objective of quantifying processes and relationships shaping microbiome communities. As such, the successful applicant with have expertise and enthusiasm for the integration of omics data and ecology.  The position will be funded for one year with a possible second year depending on performance. The position is open to applicants wishing to relocate to Lubbock, Texas, as well as to those preferring to work remotely within the United States.  Application packages should include CV, contact information for three references, Research Statement, and three examples of the applicant’s published work.  Please submit applications to caleb.phillips@ttu.edu with the subject line “Microbiome Assembly Postdoc”.

The Kingston Lab at IBRC 2022 and the first ever GBatNet research meeting

The first weeks of August were a busy time for the lab. First, we helped plan and run the first ever Global Union of Bat Diversity Networks (GBatNet) in-person research meeting. Held in Austin, TX, USA, this meeting brought together 67 researchers from 25 countries and research areas ranging from applied conservation to genomics to disease and many more! Together, we identified 15 interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary research projects that will forward GBatNet’s mission to understand and protect bat diversity in a changing world.

We then ran across town to co-hoast the 19th International Bat Research Conference. In addition to helping run the conference, Tigga presented her talk on GBatNet’s history and mission, Abby her talk “Bat Meat: Preference or Necessity? The Role of Protein
Limitation in Driving Bat-Hunting”, and Adrienne her’s entitled “A Seasonal Comparison of Foraging Movements of Pteropus alecto From an Urban and Peri-urban Roost”. Touseef presented his poster “The Role of Heat Stressed Indian Flying Foxes in Propagation of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Environment”, and recent Texas Tech undergraduate Elaine Tackett gave her first in-person poster “Global Medicinal Use of Bats: A Systematic Literature and Social Media Review“. As if that wasn’t enough, everyone contributed to running the GBatNet’s Wednesday research and recruitment workshop, attended by over 150 people.

As if that wasn’t enough, everyone contributed to running the GBatNet’s Wednesday research and recruitment workshop, attended by over 150 people.

In addition, Kingston Lab alums were well represented throughout the conference. Recent graduate Iroro Tanshi gave an early career plenary on ” Harnessing Local Capacity to Uncover and Protect Hidden Afrotropical Bat Diversity, Nurul Ain Elias and Kendra Phelps both co-chaired sessions and presented talks, and Juliana Senawi presented her work “The Distribution and Conservation of Island Bats in Langkawi Archipelago of Malaysia.”

It was an exhausting and exhilarating time filled with old friends and new ideas.

Baobabs and bats – new publication on the influence of the landscape and plant traits on fruiting success

Baobab (Adansonia digitata) trees are iconic symbols of the arid lands of continental Africa, and aside from some populations in Southern Africa are largely dependent on fruit bats for pollination. However, the bats visit a diversity of plant species to meet their energetic and nutritional needs, so the pollination service they provide the baobabs may be influenced by the landscape context of individual trees. In collaboration with Dr Paul Webala, Macy Krishnamoorthy set out to determine the relative contribution of individual plant traits, namely tree height and girth, and landscape features and context (e.g., the distance of baobab trees to conspecifics, distances to resources that might attract or distract bats, land use) to baobab reproductive success. Very ably assisted by Mr Michael Bartonjo, she mapped more than 700 baobab trees in ~10 km2 area in Kenya, measured them, and derived a number of landscape variables for each tree. She counted the number of fruit per baobab as a measure of reproductive success.

A mighty baobab with Paul Webala’s magic field bus beneath it for scale

So what did she find? Perhaps not surprisingly, larger trees were more likely to produce fruit and produce more fruit, but landscape variables also played a role, but in a complex and scale-dependent way. The importance of distance to and density of alternate food resources changed with scale, but generally, pawpaws tended to act as attractants whereas figs distracted bats from their role as pollinators.

Eopmorphorus wahlbergi – one of the fruit bat species known to pollinate baobabs

You can read the full story here:

Krishnamoorthy, M.A., Webala, P.W. & Kingston, T. Baobab fruiting is driven by scale-dependent mediation of plant size and landscape features. Landsc Ecol (2022).

Macy in a baobab tree! Baobab trees can live for well over 1000 years and reach up to 5 m in diameter at breast height, so they make for good climbing.

Fieldwork was fun but arduous and there are many people in Kenya to thank! A special thank you to Macy’s local host Daniel Ngei and his family, the local chief Joseph Kavui and all the landowners in the villages of Kaai, Kalesi, Kaluku South, Kandundu, Katithini, Kavui, Kawula, Kiwaani, Mutoleka, Ngieni East, Ngieni West and Yungamaduu who generously allowed us to sample baobabs or others fruiting trees on their lands. Funding for the project came from Bat Conservation Internationa, the Association of Biologists at Texas Tech University, and the Department of Biological Sciences at TTU.

Bats love the baobab flowers, but the fruits are quite a local snack for people. Here they have been dyed green to be sold for $0.05 a bag.

Another New Publication!

Tigga, Abby, and Elaine are authors in “Global Medicinal Use of Bats: A Systematic Literature and Social Media Review” that was published in Diversity. This paper quantifies the various uses of bats, such as for food or medicine, around the world by their IUCN regions. It was determined that, “Consumption for food was prevalent in regions of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, whereas medicinal use was most commonly reported in South Asia (where it exceeded consumption for food), Southeast Asia, and to a lesser extent, Africa and South America.” The paper also quantifies the various aliments that are treated with bats.

The global distribution type and quality of ailment treated by bat divided into IUCN regions and subregions.