Living in the dark: Bat caves as hotspots of fungal diversity.

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Living in the dark: Bat caves as hotspots of fungal diversity.

PLoS One. 2020;15(12):e0243494

Authors: Cunha AOB, Bezerra JDP, Oliveira TGL, Barbier E, Bernard E, Machado AR, Souza-Motta CM

Bat caves are very special roosts that harbour thousands of bats of one or more species. Such sites may hold an incredible “dark fungal diversity” which is still underestimated. We explored the culturable fungal richness in the air, on bats, and in the guano in a bat cave in Brazil’s Caatinga dry forest. Fungal abundance was 683 colony-forming units (CFU) in the guano, 673 CFU in the air, and 105 CFU on the bats. Based on morphological and phylogenetic analysis of ITS, LSU, and TUB2 sequences, fungal isolates of 59 taxa belonging to 37 genera in the phyla Ascomycota (28 genera, including Aspergillus, Penicillium, Cladosporium, and Talaromyces), Basidiomycota (eight genera, including Rhodotorula and Schizophyllum), and Mucoromycota (only Rhizopus) were identified. The fungal richness in the air was 23 taxa (especially Aspergillus taxa), mainly found at 15 m and 45 m from the cave entrance; on the bodies of bats it was 36 taxa (mainly Aspergillus taxa), especially on their wing membranes (21 taxa, nine of which were exclusively found in this microhabitat); and in guano 10 fungal taxa (especially Aspergillus and Penicillium) were found. The fungal richness associated with guano (fresh and non-fresh) was similar from bats with different eating habits (insectivorous, frugivorous, and haematophagous). Sampling effort was not sufficient to reveal the total fungal taxa richness estimated. Eight (21.6%) of the 37 genera and 17 (53.1%) of the 32 identified fungal species are reported for the first time in caves. Our results highlight bat caves in Brazil as hotspots of fungal diversity, emphasizing the need to protect such special roosts.

PMID: 33275627 [PubMed – as supplied by publisher]

Source: Industry