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Alopecia in Two Species of Insectivorous Bats During the Critical Time Period of Female Reproduction

Ashleigh B. Cable1,*, Emma V. Willcox1, Cory Holliday2, Chris S. Ogle3, and Richard W. Gerhold4

1Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, 2505 E.J. Chapman Drive, RM 427 Plant Biotech Building., University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. 2The Nature Conservancy, Tennessee Chapter, 750 Big Branch Road, Granville, TN 38564. 3Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, Region 4, 3030 Wildlife Way, Morristown, TN 37814.4College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996. *Corresponding author.

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 22, Issue 1 (2023): N1–N8

Alopecia in bats has been related to multiple stressors, such as ectoparasite infestations, environmental contaminant exposure, idiopathic disease, and reproductive stress. Here we note occurrences of alopecia in 2 species of insectivorous bats, including a federally endangered species. In the summer of 2022, we encountered 3 Eptesicus fuscus (Big Brown Bat) and 7 Myotis grisescens (Gray Bat) with alopecia during mist-net and harp-trap surveys at multiple locations in Tennessee, USA. Seven of the 10 bats with bald spots were adult lactating or post-lactating females, 1 was an adult pregnant female, and 2 were adult nonreproductive males. No bats with alopecia were encountered after the lactation or post-lactation time period, despite continued mist-net and harp-trap surveys. The cause of the alopecia is unknown and warrants further investigation of prevalence across pre-reproductive (pre-pregnancy), reproductive (pregnancy, lactation, and spermatogenesis), and post-reproductive (pup volancy) periods in these populations. Understanding natural molt cycles versus alopecia as an outward sign of stress in individuals is critical for assessing the health of bat populations.

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