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Fungus IS the Culprit in White-Nose Syndrome

November 4, 2011

Scientists have now confirmed that the fungus, Geomyces destructans, is the cause of white-nose syndrome, the disease that is decimating eastern bat populations. The fungus has always been associated with the syndrome (and in fact gave it it’s name, as the fungus grows a white fuzz on affected bats’ faces), but researchers were not sure whether the fungus was actually the cause of the bats’ deaths, or simply an opportunistic infection. So knowing for sure that G. destructans is the root cause of the problem is a big step — you can’t fight a disease without knowing what the disease looks like, after all.

But along with this good news are some sobering statistics. Six species of bats have declined by a whopping 88% at 42 surveyed sites, including the common (or once-common) little brown bat. As we’ve discussed earlier, scientists fear that the little brown bat could be wiped out of much of its eastern habitat in just a few years. Along with the little brown bat, there is great concern over the Indiana bat (an endangered species already), the northern long-eared bat, and the tri-colored bat.

Although the syndrome still appears to be predominately an east coast issue, it is spreading far more quickly than once was thought. The fungus has even been found in caves in Oklahoma, although bats are not dying there. Differences in regional temperatures might be at play — the fungus grows best on cold skin, which is why it hits bats while they’re hibernating in caves (and not when they’re in their summer roosting sites — many of which are in urban areas).

See this Washington Post article, and check out Bat Conservation International for more information.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 10, 2012 1:08 pm

    Went to a very cool talk about this at SICB last week. The presenter was part of a group studying why white-nose syndrome is so fatal in North American bats and not in European bats. Here’s a link to the abstract so you can keep an eye out for the possible, accompanying publication:

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