Bats save energy by reducing energetically costly immune functions during annual migration

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Both seasonal migration and the maintenance and use of an effective immune system come with substantial metabolic costs and are responsible for high levels of oxidative stress. How do animals cope in a situation when energy is limited and both costly body functions are needed? A team of scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) investigated whether and how the immune response changes between pre-migration and migration seasons in the Nathusius pipistrelle bat. They confirmed that migratory bats favour the energetically “cheaper” non-cellular (humoral) immunity during an immune challenge and selectively suppress cellular immune responses. Thereby, bats save energy much needed for their annual migration. The results are published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports.
The team of scientists around Christian C. Voigt, head of the Department of Evolutionary Ecology of the Leibniz-IZW, and Gábor Á. Czirják, senior scientist at the Department of Wildlife Diseases of the Leibniz-IZW, assessed the activity of several branches of the immune system of the Nathusius pipistrelle bat before and during migration. The seasonal journey of a 7 g Nathusius pipistrelle is energy-intensive since they fly more than 2,000 km during their annual journeys between the Baltic countries and southern France, and …

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