Banana plantations provide bats with “quick food,” but they change their gut microbiomes for the worse.

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Banana plantations provide bats with “quick food,” but they change their gut microbiomes for the worse.

The gut microbiome of nectar-eating bats who derive most of their nourishment from banana plantations in Costa Rica is less varied than that of their contemporaries who live and eat in natural forest environment.

Banana plantations and other monoculture farms are to bats what fast food is to people, according to the authors of a groundbreaking study published Thursday in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

A decrease in nutritional diversity in bats leads to a decrease in the diversity of bacteria in their intestines. The most recent data, however, reveal that not all agricultural operations have the same impact.

In a press release, primary author Priscilla Alpzar stated, “Both organic and conventional monoculture banana farms provide a fairly reliable food source for some nectar-feeding bat species.”

“However, bats foraging in intensively managed plantations had a lower diversity of gut microbes, which could be a sign of gut dysbiosis, or an unhealthy imbalance of its microbial symbionts,” said Alpzar, a doctoral student at the University of Ulm’s Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics.

Researchers discovered that bats foraging in organic banana plantations had a greater diversity of bacteria in their stomachs, and that their microbiome was more similar to that of their forest-foraging counterparts.

Gut dysbiosis, or an imbalance in the gut microbiota, has been linked to a number of health problems in humans. Fast food-rich diets, according to studies, can limit the diversity of bacteria in the human gut, resulting in gut dysbiosis.

The most recent study, which relied on fecal sample analysis, reveals that a similar phenomena can be observed in bats.

Researchers examined the body sizes and weights of local bats in addition to sequencing microbial diversity.

Bats foraging in both organic and conventional monoculture banana farms were found to be larger and heavier than those foraging in the forest.

Bats on a fast food diet also lacked microorganisms associated to fat storage, according to researchers.

“Because bats feeding in banana plantations don’t have to fly large distances to find food,” Alpzar explained, “it makes reasonable that these bats don’t require specific assistance from bacteria to retain fat.” “Fat deposition is vital for forest-foraging bats, however, because food is seasonal and scattered in patches.”

The researchers intend to find out whether pesticides also have a role in reducing microbial diversity in future investigations. Article Summary from Nokia News

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