Bat Wings Get the Brunt of White-Nose Syndrome

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

White-nose syndrome, now thought to be caused by the recently discovered fungus Geomyces destructans, is causing unprecedented mortality in several species of cave-dwelling bats during winter hibernation. A new paper in BMC Biology co-authored by FORT scientist Paul Cryan and others, "Wing Pathology of white-nose syndrome in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology," reviews the importance of healthy wings to the survival of hibernating bats and describes the extensive damage to wings caused by the unique fungus. The authors propose that death results when fungal damage to wing skin dangerously alters internal body conditions that are usually regulated through wings during hibernation. Problems caused by the novel fungus may represent a completely new disease paradigm for mammals, the researchers wrote. Since the disease was first observed in New York during the winter of 2006–07, the fungus has spread through 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces, killing over 1 million bats. Both the fungus and the disease will likely continue to spread west across the continent this winter. Read the full press release at http://www.usgs.gov/newsroom/article.asp?ID=2664 and hear the associated podcast at http://www.usgs.gov/corecast/details.asp?ep=139.

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Paul Cryan