One of the largest bat species in the world, the Indian flying fox (Pteropus medius aka Pteropus giganteus) can have wingspans of 1.2 - 1.4 meters wide ! Though they can look intimidating in flight, have no fear! For the Indian flying fox primarily eats fruits and nectar. In fact, they are often viewed as pests by farmers due to the destruction they can wreck on farms and orchards. That being said, the Indian flying fox plays an integral role in pollination and seed dispersal of many keystone plants in their home range across the Indian subcontinent .
The Indian flying fox can live in large roosts, sometimes comprising of hundreds of individuals! These roosts can be occupied for over a decade, preferring to roost in trees such as the banyan, fig, and tamarind trees. These large roosts are ideal for the Indian flying fox, as they are polygynandrous, or where both male and female bats mate with multiple partners in a breeding season .
As zoonotic diseases become more of concern, virologists and epidemiologists have been particularly interested in the Indian flying fox, a known asymptomatic carrier for the Nipah virus. Humans infected with the Nipah virus can experience encephalitis, severe illness, and death. Understanding the unique features of the Indian flying fox genome may help researchers identify evolutionary features of zoonotic diseases, like the Nipah virus.
Today, we share the chromosome-length assembly for the Indian flying fox, Pteropus giganteus also known as Pteropus medius (read more about the naming issue on Wikipedia). This genome is a Hi-C upgrade for the draft genome assembly generated by Fouret et al., (2020). Many thanks to the Houston Zoo for providing the sample used for this chromosome-length Hi-C upgrade. Please visit our Methods page for more details on the assembly procedure, and check out the interactive Juicebox.js map below for the Hi-C contact map of the 19 chromosomes of the Indian flying fox!
This is our 11th bat species released here on the DNA Zoo blog and the third Pteropus bat, or mega-bats genus! While you're here, don't forget to check our the assembly pages for the large flying fox (Pteropus vampyrus) and the Madagascan flying fox (Pteropus rufus). Stay tuned for more bat genomes to come, and Happy Bat Week!
Citations: Fouret, J., Brunet, F.G., Binet, M., Aurine, N., Enchéry, F., Croze, S., Guinier, M., Goumaidi, A., Preininger, D., Volff, J.-N., Bailly-Bechet, M., Lachuer, J., Horvat, B., Legras-Lachuer, C., 2020. Sequencing the Genome of Indian Flying Fox, Natural Reservoir of Nipah Virus, Using Hybrid Assembly and Conservative Secondary Scaffolding. Front. Microbiol. 11, 1807. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2020.01807