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Fatty Acid Methyl Ester Profiles of Bat Wing Surface Lipids


Sebocytes are specialized epithelial cells that rupture to secrete sebaceous lipids (sebum) across the mammalian integument. Sebum protects the integument from UV radiation, and maintains host microbial communities among other functions. Native glandular sebum is composed primarily of triacylglycerides (TAG) and wax esters (WE). Upon secretion (mature sebum), these lipids combine with minor cellular membrane components comprising total surface lipids. TAG and WE are further cleaved to smaller molecules through oxidation or host enzymatic digestion, resulting in a complex mixture of glycerolipids (e.g., TAG), sterols, unesterified fatty acids (FFA), WE, cholesteryl esters, and squalene comprising surface lipid. We are interested if fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) profiling of bat surface lipid could predict species specificity to the cutaneous fungal disease, white nose syndrome (WNS). We collected sebaceous secretions from 13 bat spp. using Sebutape® and converted them to FAME with an acid catalyzed transesterification. We found that Sebutape® adhesive patches removed ~6× more total lipid than Sebutape® indicator strips. Juvenile eastern red bats (Lasiurus borealis) had significantly higher 18:1 than adults, but 14:0, 16:1, and 20:0 were higher in adults. FAME profiles among several bat species were similar. We concluded that bat surface lipid FAME profiling does not provide a robust model predicting species susceptibility to WNS. However, these results provide baseline data that can be used for lipid roles in future ecological studies, such as life history, diet, or migration.

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Cholesteryl ester






Fatty acid(s)


Fatty acid methyl ester(s)


Unesterified fatty acid(s)


Gas chromatography


Ion trap


Liquid chromatography


Limit of quantification




Mass spectrometry




Polyunsaturated fatty acid(s)






Wax ester(s)


White nose syndrome


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This project was funded by the Arkansas State Wildlife Grant, the National Speleological Society, the graduate program of environmental science at Arkansas State University (ASU), Bat Conservation International, and the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University. Laboratory assistance was provided by K. Arter and H. Southe (Arkansas State University). Samples were collected by C. Gerdes (Missouri State University), T. Divoll (Biodiversity Research Institute), and P. Jordan (Arkansas State University). We thank the ecotoxicology research facility (Arkansas State University; J. Bouldin and T. Woodruff) for assistance with GC/MS (NSF Grant #1040466).

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Correspondence to Evan L. Pannkuk.

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Pannkuk, E.L., Fuller, N.W., Moore, P.R. et al. Fatty Acid Methyl Ester Profiles of Bat Wing Surface Lipids. Lipids 49, 1143–1150 (2014).

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  • White nose syndrome
  • Sebaceous lipids
  • Bat integument
  • Fatty acid methyl esters
  • Gas chromatography
  • Mass spectrometry