Random Week: African Sheath-tailed Bat (Coleura afra)
Here is a bat, randomly chosen by random.org from all the mammals I haven’t drawn, that lives in Africa, mostly in the eastern part of the continent, but in some parts of the western side, too. A few years ago, a population of these bats was found in Madagascar, but they may turn out to be a different species.
Like many bat species, the African sheath-tailed bat is a host to bat flies, ectoparasites (parasites that live on the outside of the host) that live exclusively on bats, don’t themselves fly, and often live only one particular species of bat. And although I don’t want to do anything to add to bats’ sometimes-bad reputation, I’ve been reading about how bats, including the African sheath-tailed bat, are hosts to paramyxoviruses. Paramyxoviruses include measles and mumps, and scientists recently discovered a large number of previously unknown paramyxovirus species. It seems that bats and paramyxoviruses have a close evolutionary relationship, similar to the one that birds have with influenza. Basically, these viruses originated in bats, then transferred to humans. This means that even if we think we eradicate a virus through vaccination, there may be animals that still carry it and could spread it to humans again. Here’s an article about the issue from Science Daily.