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J Comp Physiol B. 2009 Apr;179(3):315-23. doi: 10.1007/s00360-008-0315-3. Epub 2008 Nov 11.

Roosting ecology and variation in adaptive and innate immune system function in the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis).

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  • 1Center for Ecology and Conservation Biology, Boston University, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Bats have recently been implicated as reservoirs of important emerging diseases. However, few studies have examined immune responses in bats, and even fewer have evaluated these responses in an ecological context. We examined aspects of both innate and adaptive immune response in adult female Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) at four maternity roosts (two natural caves and two human-made bridges) in south-central Texas. Immune measurements included in vitro bactericidal ability of whole blood and in vivo T cell mediated response to mitogenic challenge. Bactericidal activity in T. brasiliensis varied with roosting ecology, but appears to be sensitive to colony-level effects. Blood from females living at one cave had significantly lower bactericidal ability than blood from females at three other sites. T cell mediated response in this species was associated with variation in roost ecology, with females from two caves having greater responses than females from two bridges. T cell mediated response and bactericidal activity were negatively correlated with one another within individuals that were tested for both. Variation in immunological response of T. brasiliensis is important for understanding the influence of the environment on the frequency and distribution of immunologically competent individuals and for understanding disease-host dynamics in this and other colonial species.

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