Role of bats in the emergence of viral zoonoses
Pankaj Dhaka and Deepthi Vijay
Bats, both insectivorous and frugivorous, play a major role in wide range of ecosystems across the globe, mainly in depleting the insect population especially the pests as well as through the dispersal of seeds and pollination of many varieties of plants. Bats are the only flying mammal and have a widespread geographical distribution, occurring in all continents, except Antarctica (Moratelli and Calisher, 2015).Bats are considered as the second most abundant mammals in the world, next to rodents, with around 1300 species (IUCN,2010). This total comprises almost one fifth of the world’s mammalian species, with more than 175 genera arranged in 20 families (Simmons, 2005; Wilson and Reeder, 2005). Most of the bats roost together in large colonies and have unique ability to travel long distances (Turmelle and Olival, 2009). Caves, underneath trees and canopy of thick vegetation, abandoned human dwellings etc. are the favourite aggregating sites of colonial bats (Kunz and Pierson, 1994). Despite their important positive role in ecosystem, bats have also been linked to theincidence of many zoonotic diseases. The bats have been reported to carry many of deadly viruses in their secretions and excretions, thereby serving as a zoonotic pool for emerging infections. Bats host more zoonotic viruses per species than do rodents and most of the resulting zoonoses have been highprofile spillover incidents of extreme human pathogenicity (Dobson, 2005).