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Nocturnality, seasonality and the SARS-CoV-2 Ecological Niche

Authors:
  • The Gibraltar National Museum
  • The Gibraltar National Museum
  • The Gibraltar National Museum
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Understanding the behaviour of hosts of SARS-CoV-2 is crucial to our understanding of the virus. A comparison of environmental features related to the incidence of SARS-CoV-2 with those of its potential hosts is critical. We examine the distribution of coronaviruses among bats. We analyse the distribution of SARS-CoV-2 in a nine-week period following lockdown in Italy, Spain, and Australia. We correlate its incidence with environmental variables particularly ultraviolet radiation, temperature, and humidity. We establish a clear negative relationship between COVID-19 and ultraviolet radiation, modulated by temperature and humidity. We relate our results with data showing that the bat species most vulnerable to coronavirus infection are those which live in environmental conditions that are similar to those that appear to be most favourable to the spread of COVID-19. The SARS-CoV-2 ecological niche has been the product of long-term coevolution of coronaviruses with their host species. Understanding the key parameters of that niche in host species allows us to predict circumstances where its spread will be most favourable. Such conditions can be summarised under the headings of nocturnality and seasonality. High ultraviolet radiation, in particular, is proposed as a key limiting variable. We therefore expect the risk of spread of COVID-19 to be highest in winter conditions, and in low light environments. Human activities resembling those of highly social cave-dwelling bats (e.g. large nocturnal gatherings or high density indoor activities) will only serve to compound the problem of COVID-19.
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