There’s very little good news with white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease spreading across the United States and Canada. The fungus infects the nose and wings of bats, causing them to wake up early from hibernation and often starve to death. Since the syndrome was first identified among bats in New York in 2006, populations of several species in the northeast have been devastated.
But today researchers report online in Ecology Letters that one species of bat is reducing the risk of extinction, Geomyces destructans, with individual bats hibernating alone rather than in large groups. “That’s really positive,” says Katie Gillies of Bat Conservation International in Austin, which helped fund the research. In addition, populations in colder, drier caves are experiencing proportionally fewer cases of white-nose syndrome than those located elsewhere. Yet the situation remains dire for the bats, Gillies and others caution, with populations greatly reduced and few tools for wildlife managers to help the bats.
The new study, led by graduate student Kate Langwig of the University of California, Santa Cruz, compiled survey data on all six species of bats in the northeast from before and after the arrival of the fungus. “It’s been guesswork until this study,” says Paul Cryan, a biologist at U.S. Geological Survey in Fort Collins, Colorado, who was not involved in the research. The conclusions confirmed previous impressions: Two species, big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) and Eastern small-footed bats (Myotis leibii), are relatively unimpacted by the fungus. But populations of the Indiana bat (M. sodalis), already on the federal endangered species list, and three other species have taken a nosedive…
(read more: Science NOW) (photo: Al Hicks/NY State Dept of Envir. Cons.)