The bats won out as the topic for this week's PEOTS (although, sadly, the bat populations are losing millions to the fungal White Nose Syndrome since 2006). Look at these incredible images from today's New York Times:
Continuing last week's examination of an animal with low cancer rates, the Bowhead Whale, this week's look at bats shows a mammal with almost non-existent tumours. Bats are also carriers of many viruses from Ebola to mumps and measles without showing symptoms of the diseases they carry.
From the New York Times article:
"Scientists traditionally have divided bats into two big suborders: the fruit-eating megabats and insect-eating microbats, deeming the groups so distinct they might have evolved flight independently."
"Yet recent genomic analysis in the journal Science reveals that the ability to fly dates to the earliest days of the bat lineage, some 90 million years ago, and that megas did not split from micros for another 10 million years, after which the micros alone evolved the capacity for echolocation, to help them hunt their insect prey." [These are Wrinkle-lipped bats in Thailand; again, a naming process in which I wish I'd had a part].
"The new study also described other important traits that bats of both suborders share. For one thing, researchers found an “unexpected concentration” of genes involved in repairing damaged DNA. Those fix-it factors, the scientists proposed, are the bat’s solution to the blistering demands of flight.
When a bat flies, its heart beats an impressive 1,000 times a minute, and its metabolism ramps up 15-fold over resting rate. By contrast, said David Blehert of the United States Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis., the metabolism of a running rodent is seven times normal, “and that’s only for a short burst, whereas a bat can fly at 15-fold metabolic rate for hours.”
All that fiery flapping ends up generating a huge number of metabolic byproducts called free radicals, which could mutilate the bat’s DNA were it not for its extra-strength molecular repair crew. And countering DNA damage happens to be a great strategy for overall health, which could explain bats’ exceptional longevity and apparent resistance to cancer."
Fiery flapping? Swimming all day? A key for both the Bowheads Whale and the over 1200 bat species appears to be movement. . .and rest. The torpor or hibernating phase of bats' lives are being interrupted as they spend time preening (rather than resting) when the White-nose Syndrome fungus is present.
These prolific bats can live up to 40 years with little cancer or exhibiting virus illnesses. . .and overgrooming and lack of rest due to a fungus does them in?!