Are little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus ) impacted by dietary exposure to microcystin?

Harmful Algae
By: , and 



The cyanobacterium, Microcystis aeruginosa, can produce the hepatotoxin microcystin. When toxic M. aeruginosa overwinters in the sediments of lakes, it may be ingested by aquatic insects and bioaccumulate in nymphs of Hexagenia mayflies. When volant Hexagenia emerge from lakes to reproduce, they provide an abundant, albeit temporary, food source for many terrestrial organisms including bats. Little brown bats, Myotis lucifugus, feed opportunistically on aquatic insects including Hexagenia. To determine if microcystin moves from aquatic to terrestrial ecosystems via trophic transfer, we combined a dietary analysis with the quantification of microcystin in bat livers and feces. In June 2014, coincident with the local Hexagenia emergence, bat feces were collected from underneath a maternity roost near Little Traverse Lake (Leelanau County, Michigan, USA). Insects in the diet were identified via molecular analyses of fecal pellets from the roost and from individual bats. Livers and feces were collected from 19 female M. lucifugus, and the concentrations of microcystin in these liver tissues and feces were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and liquid chromatography coupled with tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS). We show that the majority of the bats’ diets consisted of aquatic insects and that microcystin was detected in high concentrations (up to 129.9 μg/kg dw) in the bat feces by ELISA. Histopathological examination of three bat livers with the highest concentrations of microcystin showed no evidence of phycotoxicosis, indicating that M. lucifugus may not be immediately affected by the ingestion of microcystin. Future work could examine whether bats suffer delayed physiological effects from ingestion of microcystin.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Are little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) impacted by dietary exposure to microcystin?
Series title Harmful Algae
DOI 10.1016/j.hal.2022.102221
Volume 114
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 102221, 9 p.
Country United States
State Michigan
County Leelanau
Other Geospatial Little Traverse Lake
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