Reviled animals could be our powerful allies

January 18, 2018

Animal carnivores living in and around human habitation are declining at an unprecedented rate - but they may provide crucial benefits to human societies.

An international review led by University of Queensland researchers has revealed that predators and scavengers ranging from bats to leopards and vultures are valuable to human health and well-being.

UQ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student Christopher O'Bryan said the study showed examples of native predators and scavengers providing services including disease regulation, agricultural productivity and waste disposal.

Predators and scavengers such as big cats in Africa and Asia or dingoes in Australia are a large source of conflict to humans, but there are many examples where they may provide benefits," Mr O'Bryan said.

"Our paper identifies studies that have shown these benefits across a broad spectrum.

"These include US mountain lions reducing deer-vehicle collisions, bats saving corn farmers billions of dollars each year by reducing crop pests, and vultures saving millions in livestock carcass removal.

"These benefits may affect areas across the globe where predators and scavengers are present.

"For example, there is a link between the presence of bats and increased coffee production that could have great economic impacts in developing countries, as coffee is a major commodity."

The research aimed to evaluate positive and negative effects on human well-being through an extensive review of recent studies.

"The literature shows that we know a lot about the negative impacts of predators and scavengers, but we are just now beginning to understand the potentially irreplaceable services these animals can provide," Mr O'Bryan said.

"If we lose these animals, we may be in trouble."

Australian Research Council Fellow Dr Eve McDonald-Madden said research into these benefits would improve evaluation of the implications of decisions affecting many vilified species.

"We can then highlight those situations leading to win-wins for both predators and people, thus enhancing the protection of one of the world's most threatened groups of animals," she said.
-end-
Mr O'Bryan is an Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre scholar.

The research (The contribution of predators and scavengers to human well-being) is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution (DOI: 10.1038/s41559-017-0421-2).

Watch the video at: https://vimeo.com/251588350/4d1e9ac23b. Thanks to Queensland Museum and the Workshops Rail Museum exhibition: A Room for Wild Animals for the filming location.

University of Queensland

Related Bats Articles from Brightsurf:

These masked singers are bats
Bats wear face masks, too. Bat researchers got lucky, observing wrinkle-faced bats in a lek, and copulating, for the first time.

Why do bats fly into walls?
Bats sometimes collide with large walls even though they detect these walls with their sonar system.

Vampire bats social distance when they get sick
A new paper in Behavioral Ecology finds that wild vampire bats that are sick spend less time near others from their community, which slows how quickly a disease will spread.

Why doesn't Ebola cause disease in bats, as it does in people?
A new study by researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston uncovered new information on why the Ebola virus can live within bats without causing them harm, while the same virus wreaks deadly havoc to people.

The genetic basis of bats' superpowers revealed
First six reference-quality bat genomes released and analysed

Bats offer clues to treating COVID-19
Bats carry many viruses, including COVID-19, without becoming ill. Biologists at the University of Rochester are studying the immune system of bats to find potential ways to ''mimic'' that system in humans.

A new social role for echolocation in bats that hunt together
To find prey in the dark, bats use echolocation. Some species, like Molossus molossus, may also search within hearing distance of their echolocating group members, sharing information about where food patches are located.

Coronaviruses and bats have been evolving together for millions of years
Scientists compared the different kinds of coronaviruses living in 36 bat species from the western Indian Ocean and nearby areas of Africa.

Bats depend on conspecifics when hunting above farmland
Common noctules -- one of the largest bat species native to Germany -- are searching for their fellows during their hunt for insects above farmland.

Tiny insects become 'visible' to bats when they swarm
Small insects that would normally be undetectable to bats using echolocation suddenly become detectable when they occur in large swarms.

Read More: Bats News and Bats Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.