Bats belong to one of the most species-rich orders within the Mammalia. They show a worldwide distribution, a high degree of ecological diversification as well as a high diversity of associated parasites and pathogens. Despite their prominent and unique role, the knowledge of their parasite-host-relationships as well as the mechanisms of co-evolutionary processes are, partly due to strict conservation regulations, scarce.
Juvenile specimens of the greater mouse-eared bat (Myotis myotis) from a roosting colony in Gladenbach (Hesse, Germany) were examined for their metazoan endo-and ectoparasite infections and pathogens. Morphometric data were recorded and the individuals were checked for Lyssavirus-specific antigen using a direct immunofluorescence test. For unambiguous species identification, the bats were analysed by cyt-b sequence comparison.
Myotis myotis were parasitized by the six insect and arachnid ectoparasite species, i.e. Ixodes ricinus, Ischnopsyllus octactenus, Ichoronyssus scutatus, Steatonyssus periblepharus, Spinturnix myoti and Cimex dissimilis. Additionally, the nematode Molinostrongylus alatus and the cestode Vampirolepis balsaci were recorded. Each bat was parasitized by at least four species. The parasites showed partially extreme rates of infection, never recorded before, with more than 1,440 parasites per single host. Ichoronyssus scutatus, Steatonyssus periblepharus, Vampirolepis balsaci and Molinostrongylus alatus are recorded for the first time in Germany. A checklist for Europe is presented containing records of 98 parasite species of 14 Myotis species.
The Myotis myotis from Gladenbach (Hesse, Germany) were parasitized by a diverse parasite fauna with high infestation rates. We assume that in juvenile Myotis the number of parasites is generally higher than in adults due to only later acquired immune competence and behavioural adaptations. Our results revealed new insights into parasite fauna of M. myotis and European bats in general. The finding of endoparasitic cyclophyllidean cestodes that have a two-host lifecycle is, considering the stationary behaviour of the juvenile bats, rather unusual and suggests a non-predatory transmission mechanism (e.g. via autoinfection). A new insight gained from the collated literature was that the European wide composition of the Myotis parasite fauna is dominated by a few specific taxonomic groups in Europe.