Social effects of rabies infection in male vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)

Biology Letters
By: , and 



Rabies virus (RABV) transmitted by the common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) poses a threat to agricultural development and public health throughout the Neotropics. The ecology and evolution of rabies host-pathogen dynamics are influenced by two infection-induced behavioral changes. RABV-infected hosts often exhibit increased aggression which facilitates transmission, and rabies also leads to reduced activity and paralysis prior to death. Although several studies document rabies-induced behavioral changes in rodents and other dead-end hosts, surprisingly few studies have measured these changes in vampire bats, the key natural reservoir throughout Latin America. Here, we take advantage of an experiment designed to test the safety and efficacy of an oral rabies vaccine in captive male vampire bats to quantify for the first time how rabies affects allogrooming and aggressive behaviors in the vampire bat. Compared to non-rabid vampire bats, rabid individuals reduced their allogrooming prior to death, but we did not detect increases in aggression among bats. To put our results in context, we review what is known and what remains unclear about behavioral changes of rabid vampire bats.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Social effects of rabies infection in male vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus)
Series title Biology Letters
DOI 10.1098/rsbl.2022.0298
Volume 18
Issue 9
Year Published 2022
Language English
Publisher The Royal Society Publishing
Contributing office(s) National Wildlife Health Center
Description 20220298
Other Geospatial Central America, Latin America, Neotropics, South America
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