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Liliana Dávalos Featured in NOVA Documentary on ‘Bat Superpowers’

Liliana M. Dávalos

Liliana Dávalos, professor of ecology and evolution in the College of Arts and Sciences, was featured in the NOVA documentary, “Bat Superpowers,” which aired on PBS on September 15.

Liliana M. Dávalos
Liliana M. Dávalos monitors DNA samples collected from bats.

The episode explores whether bats, suspected reservoirs of some of the world’s deadliest viruses, hold the secret to a healthier and longer life.

From the episode description: “Bats have a sinister reputation as potential sources for some of the deadliest disease outbreaks: Ebola, MERS, SARS, and most recently, SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 global pandemic. Yet scientists are discovering new evidence that bats are biological marvels and may hold a key to longevity.”

The Dávalos lab at Stony Brook University focuses on what biotic and abiotic mechanisms produce species and trait diversity, and how growing human activities affect the old-growth forests where diversity concentrates; mammalian biodiversity is at the center of the lab’s research mission.

Dávalos, one of several experts featured in the documentary, is introduced in her lab, which boasts a unique and vast biological collection of bat organs and tissues from across the globe. Dávalos and her spouse, Angélique Corthals of the City University of New York, discuss their research on cells that line the nasal cavities of humans and bats, in order to learn more about how each species is affected by viruses related to SARS-CoV-2. Stony Brook University Ecology and Evolution graduate Laurel Yohe’s research on advanced imaging is also featured.

“Our scientific understanding, so far, is that the viral loads are fairly low, meaning that these infections are circulating, but they do not have the same consequences in the bats that they have in people,” Dávalos says in the documentary. “We don’t understand yet fully why.”

View the video and read the full transcript of the documentary at the PBS NOVA website.

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