Effects of ethanol on food consumption and skin temperature in the egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus)

Carmi Korine, Francisco Sánchez, Berry Pinshow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Since mammalian frugivores generally choose to eat ripe fruit in which ethanol concentration ([EtOH]) increases as the fruit ripens, we asked whether ethanol acts as an appetitive stimulant in the Egyptian fruit bat, Rousettus aegyptiacus, and also studied the effects of ethanol on their skin temperature (Ts). We hypothesized that the responses of fruit bats to dietary ethanol are concentration dependent and tested the predictions that the bats' response is positive, i.e., they eat more when [EtOH] in the food is in the range found in naturally ripe fruit, while it negatively affects them at higher concentrations. We also tested the prediction that in winter, even when availability of fruit is low and thermoregulatory costs are high, ingestion of ethanol by fruit bats is low because assimilated ethanol reduces shivering thermogenesis and peripheral vasodilation; these, alone or together, are detrimental to the maintenance of body temperature (Tb). In summer, captive bats offered food containing 0.1 ethanol significantly increased consumption over food with no ethanol; they did not change consumption when food contained 0.01, 0.3, or 0.5 ethanol; but significantly decreased consumption at higher levels of ethanol [EtOH], i.e., 1 and 2. In winter, captive bats ate significantly less when their food contained 0.1 ethanol than when it contained 0, 0.3, or 0.5. During summer, freshly caught bats ate significantly more ethanol-containing food than freshly caught bats in winter. Skin temperature (Ts) in Egyptian fruit bats decreased significantly at an ambient temperature (Ta) of 12°C (winter conditions) after gavage with liquid food containing 1 ethanol. The effect was clearly temperature-dependent, since ethanol did not have the same effect on bats gavaged with food containing 1 or no ethanol at a Ta of 25°C (summer conditions). In conclusion, ethanol may act as an appetitive stimulant for Egyptian fruit bats at low concentrations, but only in summer. Bats are deterred by food containing [EtOH] corresponding to that in overripe, unpalatable fruit (1 and 2). Furthermore, during winter, Egyptian fruit bats are deterred by ethanol-rich fruit, possibly due to the potential thermoregulatory consequences of ethanol consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)432-440
Number of pages9
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Plant Science


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