Kenyan Free-Tailed Bats Demonstrate Seasonal Birth Pulse Asynchrony with Implications for Virus Maintenance

Ecohealth. 2024 Feb 19. doi: 10.1007/s10393-024-01674-x. Online ahead of print.


Ecological information on wildlife reservoirs is fundamental for research targeting prevention of zoonotic infectious disease, yet basic information is lacking for many species in global hotspots of disease emergence. We provide the first estimates of synchronicity, magnitude, and timing of seasonal birthing in Mops condylurus, a putative ebolavirus host, and a co-roosting species, Mops pumilus (formerly Chaerephon pumilus). We show that population-level synchronicity of M. condylurus birthing is wide (~ 8.5 weeks) and even wider in M. pumilus (> 11 weeks). This is predicted to promote the likelihood of filovirus persistence under conditions of bi-annual birthing (two births per year). Ecological features underlying the magnitude of the birth pulse-relative female abundance (higher than expected for M. condylurus and lower for M. pumilus, based on literature) and reproductive rate (lower than expected)-will have countering effects on birthing magnitude. Species-specific models are needed to interpret how identified birth pulse attributes may interact with other features of molossid ebolavirus ecology to influence infection dynamics. As a common feature of wildlife species, and a key driver of infection dynamics, detailed information on seasonal birthing will be fundamental for future research on these species and will be informative for bat-borne zoonoses generally.

Keywords: Africa; Chaerephon; Ebola virus disease; Filovirus; Molossidae; Transmission.