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WATCH: First Ever Footage of Primates Devouring Bats; Could this Finally Shed Light On Ebola Transmission In Humans?

May 26, 2016 07:20 AM EDT

Zoonotic diseases also known as animal-to-human diseases kill millions of people each year. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 6 out of every 10 infectious diseases in humans are spread from animals.

A recent study shows for the first time forest-dwelling Cercopithecus monkeys feeding on bats. The question is, could this new discovery lead to figuring out how Ebola epidemic spread in humans? Bats became the leading culprits in the outbreak, having been suspected for serving as the natural reservoir of ebola.

The footage captured by Elizabeth Tapanes of Florida Atlantic University, could hold clues into how zoonotic pathogens spread to other animal groups, including humans.

"Cercopithecusmonkeys are highly prized as bushmeat by humans and are also hunted by chimpanzees (Linder and Oates 2011;Moussoun et al. 2015; Watts and Mitani 2002). Chimpanzee meat is also valued as bushmeat (Hicks et al. 2010), and directly implicated in viral transmission to humans (Olival and Hayman 2014). Thus, predation on bats by Cercopithecus monkeys specifically may have implications for zoonotic disease transmission to humans," the study said.

Scientists have captured images of the animals eating bats in Gombe National Park in Tanzania and Kakamega Forest in Kenya. The behavior has been studied since 1979, with the primates being habitually followed by the group. The photos were sent to Nature World News.

According to the study, 13 bat predation events had been documented over years. The researchers noted that they were not able to identify all the bat species because carcass consumption was often well under way when first detected.

They also mentioned that while feeding on the bats, the primates elicited behaviors such as long bout alarm calls, which implies that the bats are desirable food items for them.

All cases of monkeys hunting or feeding on bats occurred in or near human-modified or forest-edge habitats, which suggests that the omnivorous behavior is caused by habitat changes.

"While effects of habitat change on bats are unknown and merit further study, our observations suggest that Cercopithecus monkeys preying on bats may be habitat specific, and possibly affected by anthropogenic habitat changes," said Elizabeth Tapanes, first author of the study and a recent graduate of the master's in arts program in the Department of Anthropology at FAU in a press release sent to Nature World News.

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