Animal Science Blog

Animal Science

The Animal Science Blog is the place for conversation and discussion about scientific and technological topics related to pets, livestock, and other animals. See how cutting-edge advances help - or hinder - species around the world.

Previous in Blog: Bird Banding Technology Part 2   Next in Blog: Concrete and Limpets Aren’t So Different After All
Close
Close
Close
15 comments

Bats and Bananas

Posted December 01, 2016 8:00 AM by BestInShow

In the process of researching my last blog about Bananapocalypse, I discovered a surprising number of uses for banana peels. Did you know that you can remove a splinter, or a wart, by taping the peel over the splinter or wart? Also, rubbing the peel on a bruise helps make it disappear. Banana peels buried around plants that attract aphids will deter the pests from taking up residence. Check out other handy banana peel hints here and here.

I did not know that recent research has discovered, entirely serendipitously, that Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) released by a common bacterium can successfully treat White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats. The Georgia State University researchers who made this discovery were looking at ways to delay banana ripening, using bacterial VOCs. One of the researchers noticed that bananas exposed to a particular bacterium, R. rhodochrous, didn’t get moldy. Its VOCs have an antifungal property. Chris Cornelison, now a postdoc at Georgia State, made the mental connection between the fungal WNS in bats and the potential to use bacterial fumes to treat it.

WNS is decimating bats

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the plague of WNS started decimating insect-eating bat populations in 29 states and five Canadian provinces during the winter of 2007-2008. The culprit in this disease is the cold-loving fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans. The fungus attacks hibernating bats, causing behaviors such as daytime flights during winter. These behaviors consume fat reserves stored for the hibernation period. Eventually the fungus damages the bats’ wings and causes water and electrolyte loss.

Given the number of bats that overwinter together in caves, the fungus can easily affect thousands of bats. The USGS estimates that up to 80 percent of bats in the northeastern United States have died from WNS. The precipitous decline in bat populations is expected to affect agriculture, since bats eat insects that harm crops. Mr. Best in Show and I used to see bats flying at night around our house out in the middle of nowhere and, occasionally, flying low in our bedroom. For the past five or six years, though, we haven’t seen a bat at all. Very sad.

Could R. rhodochrous kill the fungus in bats?

Cornelison exposed petri dishes of the WNS fungus to fumes from R. rhodochrous and, as he said, “the first exposure seemed too good to be true.” This is great news for groups who’ve studied the fungus, trying to understand disease pathology and transmission. Scientists knew of nothing that could halt the fungus from continuing to spread, beyond advising spelunkers to take care not to carry the fungus between caves. So Cornelison’s discovery offered the first hopeful news in the battle to save the bats.

Enter The Nature Conservancy in Tennessee. They knew they needed to address WNS head-on. The Conservancy and Bat Conservation International decided to cooperate on a study, treating bats in the field with the VOCs generated by R. Rhodochrous. Bats were exposed to the VOCs then placed in a cave to hibernate. When the bats broke hibernation, they had no detectable signs of WNS. Some had so much wing damage that they will live out their lives in a protected environment. The other, healthier bats were moved to a wild cave.

Fruit bat eating banana via YouTube

Will bacterial emissions solve the WNS problem?

Biological control agents often have unintended consequences, where the agent itself becomes a problem. With this in mind, researchers are proceeding carefully with using VOCs in bat caves. One possibility for treating bats and/or their caves would be to expose an entire cave to the gasses, rather than treat individual bats. Before trying this in the wild, researchers have to find out what such exposure would do to cave ecology. And they have to make sure that the VOCs don’t have unexpected deleterious effects on the bats or other animals. So far, though, this treatment looks promising.

This story has a secondary point: the role of serendipity and non-linear thinking in the advancement of science. The researchers wanted to find a way to retard banana ripening. If no one had realized that the R. rhodochrous VOCs had fungicidal effects—if Chris Cornelison didn’t know about WNS in bats—I wouldn’t be writing this blog. A graduate school professor of mine told me that he accidentally found a book that changed the direction of his Ph.D. research, after he’d already spent weeks following references and compiling a bibliography. You just never know, do you?

References

Matt Miller. Bananas to Bats: The Science Behind the First Bats Successfully Treated for White Nose Syndrome. Cool Green Science, May 15, 2015.

U.S. Geological Survey. Disease Information: White Nose Syndrome

Image credit: Little Brown Bat, Wikimedia

Video credit: YouTube

Reply

Interested in this discussion?
You can "subscribe" to this discussion to be notified of new comments.
Click on the Subscribe menu at the top of the page.
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: at the beach in Florida
Posts: 30202
Good Answers: 1683
#1

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/01/2016 10:31 AM

__________________
Break a sweat everyday doing something you enjoy
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22275
Good Answers: 402
#2

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/01/2016 11:09 AM

I had heard that unripe bananas are toxic, but that must be a tale.

I know that bananas are picked green and ripen but the time they are sold.

After a little research, one just need to be aware of preparing bananas.

Not to cook them with olive oil, because this creates lipid peroxides.

here's the link

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12331
Good Answers: 115
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/03/2016 12:25 PM

The real puzzle is how to open a banana. A monkey, reportedly, will always open one from the opposite end to a human. Surely all those millions of monkeys over the years can't be wrong.

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22275
Good Answers: 402
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/03/2016 5:40 PM

I've read that about 2 years ago and done it, it is easier.

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 177
Good Answers: 3
#5
In reply to #3

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/05/2016 12:04 PM

They are opening it from the top. Many people (myself included for years) think that the stem is the top since they are displayed in the stores that'a'way.

Reply
Power-User
Hobbies - Musician - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member

Join Date: May 2010
Location: Upstate NY
Posts: 279
Good Answers: 5
#6
In reply to #5

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/05/2016 6:44 PM

I agree, they are easier to peel that way, especially when very ripe.

__________________
LakeGrl
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#7
In reply to #3

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/05/2016 9:01 PM

Wonder which end of a Berdoll's pecan they open first. ;-)

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12331
Good Answers: 115
#9
In reply to #7

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/08/2016 7:49 AM

They swallow the things whole

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2016
Posts: 2914
Good Answers: 115
#10
In reply to #9

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/08/2016 11:36 AM

Noticed IHS no longer owns GlobbySpeck.

"Celebrity marriages: they never last" -Donkey

Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12331
Good Answers: 115
#11
In reply to #10

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/08/2016 6:14 PM

Ah, my son, the truth is eternal.....

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 918
Good Answers: 9
#8
In reply to #3

Re: Bats and Bananas

12/05/2016 10:09 PM

Our bananas are also used to open on the tip, Kris

Kittens are not advised, however.

Reply
Participant

Join Date: Jun 2018
Posts: 2
#12
In reply to #8

Re: Bats and Bananas

06/13/2018 3:34 AM

Yeah true!

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Sep 2018
Posts: 10
#13

Re: Bats and Bananas

09/07/2018 12:54 AM

Bats infestation in our yards or attics is worse and very difficult to get rid of. It requires a professional assistance and proper strategy.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 918
Good Answers: 9
#14
In reply to #13

Re: Bats and Bananas

02/22/2019 11:25 AM

Get Ozzy and Ronie Dio at level 8 plus guitars played overnight.

Reply
Associate

Join Date: Jul 2019
Posts: 41
#15

Re: Bats and Bananas

03/17/2020 3:02 AM

I do not know what to say really what you share very well and useful to the community, I feel that it makes our community much more developed, thanks temple run 3

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 15 comments
Interested in this discussion?
You can "subscribe" to this discussion to be notified of new comments.
Click on the Subscribe menu at the top of the page.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

Andrew Westman (2); DantePruitt (1); goalken (1); gutmonarch (2); JoseGarner (1); Kris (3); LakeGrl (1); phoenix911 (2); SolarEagle (1); Torqued (1)

Previous in Blog: Bird Banding Technology Part 2   Next in Blog: Concrete and Limpets Aren’t So Different After All

Advertisement