Presentation Abstract

Title: Bat white-nose syndrome, an emergent wildlife disease.
Session Title: Diseases Impacting Wildlife Conservation in North America
Session Number: 71
Session Time: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 8:30 AM -12:20 PM
Presentation Time: Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 9:10 AM - 9:30 AM
Author(s): David Blehert, 1 Contact: dblehert@usgs.gov
Abstract Body: White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent wildlife disease that has caused unprecedented mortality among bats of the eastern United States and Canada. Since the winter of 2006-2007, bat population declines approaching 100% have been documented at some affected hibernacula, and total estimated losses have exceeded five million bats. Affected hibernating bats often present with visually striking white fungal growth on their muzzles, ears, and/or wing membranes. Histopathological and microbiological analyses demonstrated that WNS is characterized by a hallmark fungal skin infection caused by a newly described species of psychrophilic (cold-loving) fungus, Geomyces destructans. The fungus was initially discovered by laboratory culture at 4°C, and it cannot grow above 19°C, properties consistent with a pathogen that specifically infects hibernating animals. Laboratory infection studies have since demonstrated that G. destructans is the sole causative agent of WNS, and the fungus is transmissible bat-to-bat. Additionally, the fungus has been shown to persist in soil of hibernacula occupied by infected bats demonstrating that environmental reservoirs likely play a role in the ecology of this disease. Bats of North America are primary predators of nocturnal insects, and the unprecedented bat population declines caused by WNS may have far-reaching ecological consequences.



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