Vitamin D metabolism in a frugivorous nocturnal mammal, the Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus)

Meropi Cavaleros, Rochelle Buffenstein, F. Patrick Ross, John M. Pettifor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The nocturnal, frugivorous Egyptian fruit bat (Rousettus aegyptiacus) has no obvious access to either endogenous or dietary sources of vitamin D. We hypothesized that this species under natural conditions would be vitamin D deficient and that both serum mineral concentrations and vitamin D metabolite concentrations would be low. Both wild populations and captive populations appear to have an impoverished vitamin D status, as concentrations of the principle circulating metabolite, 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] are undetectable (<4ng/mL) and those of the active metabolite, 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D [1, 25(OH)2D] are low. Intraperitoneal administration of labelled 25(OH)D revealed enhanced 1 α-hydroxylase activity confirming a natural state of vitamin D deficiency. This may account for the undetectable levels of 25(OH)D; for limited amounts of the prohormone substrate are rapidly converted to the active hormone. Both vitamin D2 and D3 metabolites were detected in bat serum, albeit in very small amounts, inferring that in their natural habitat fruit bats may have limited access to both exogenous dietary sources and endogenous sources. Despite the low levels of vitamin D metabolites in wild-caught and captive D-unsupplemented individuals, serum mineral concentrations were well regulated and similar to those of bats receiving D-supplements, with no pathological problems associated with vitamin D deficiency evident.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalGeneral and Comparative Endocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


  • 1, 25-Dihydroxyvitamin D
  • 25-Hydroxyvitamin D
  • Egyptian fruit bat
  • Rousettus aegyptiacus
  • Serum calcium concentration
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin D binding protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Endocrinology


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