Killer fungus spreads to endangered gray bats: US

May 29, 2012
This undated photo courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service shows a biologist holding a gray bat. A deadly fungus that has wiped out large populations of bats in North America has spread to a new species, the endangered gray bat, US wildlife officials said.

A deadly fungus that has wiped out large populations of bats in North America has spread to a new species, the endangered gray bat, US wildlife officials said Tuesday.

White-nose syndrome (WNS) was found in several gray bats in the southeastern state of Tennessee, though there was no sign that the disease had yet killed any of the endangered creatures, the said.

"While no mortality has been observed in gray bats that can be linked to WNS, the confirmation that gray bats can be infected is cause for concern," it said in a statement.

The fungus has been documented in 19 US states and four provinces of Canada since it first emerged in 2006, and has killed nearly seven million bats according to experts' estimates.

It had previously been found in six different species of , including the endangered Indiana bat.

The disease can cause unusual behavior in bats that typically hibernate through the winter, resulting in clusters of bats near cave entrances and some of the nocturnal creatures venturing outside during the day.

These activities can deplete the bats' energy reserves and cause them to die prematurely.

Gray bats were listed as endangered in 1976. Most live in a small number of caves in the southeastern United States, making them particularly vulnerable to disturbances like disease or human intrusion.

Bats are valuable as natural pesticides because they eat lots of insects, and the loss of the bats has raised concerns among farmers and biologists alike.

"The news that another federally endangered , the gray bat, has been confirmed with white-nose syndrome is devastating for anyone who cares about bats and the benefits they provide to people," said FWS director Dan Ashe.

A US study last month in the suggested that the was likely introduced into a New York cave by a visitor from Europe.

For now, experts have no way to treat or cure the epidemic, which has swept 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) across the United States and into Canada, killing up to 97 percent of the bats in colonies it afflicts.

"We are not sure what this diagnosis is going to mean for gray bats and the spread of WNS," said Jeremy Coleman, National WNS Coordinator for the Service.

"Individual bat species appear to respond differently to WNS, and only research and time will reveal where gray bats fit on the spectrum."

Explore further: Some scientists share better than others

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Up to 6.7 million bats dead from fungus: US

Jan 17, 2012

Between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats have died in North America due to a fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the disease first appeared in 2006, US authorities said on Tuesday.

Culling can't control deadly bat disease

Feb 14, 2011

Culling will not stop the spread of a deadly fungus that is threatening to wipe out hibernating bats in North America, according to a new mathematical model.

Study: Fungus behind bat die-off came from Europe

Apr 09, 2012

The mysterious deaths of millions of bats in the United States and Canada over the past several years were caused by a fungus that hitchhiked from Europe, scientists reported Monday.

Recommended for you

Helping sweet cherries survive the long haul

2 hours ago

A new study says that cherry producers need to understand new intricacies of the production-harvest-marketing continuum in order to successfully move sweet cherries from growers to end consumers. For example, the Canadian ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) May 29, 2012
Maybe they should introduce European bats population in North A. Since they are more resilient and the can pass it on and mix with the local bats.
Terriva
3 / 5 (2) May 29, 2012
IMO this epidemic is of allergic origin and it corresponds the concentration of GMO pollen - so that the European bats will suffer at the USA anyway.
kaasinees
1 / 5 (1) May 30, 2012
IMO this epidemic is of allergic origin and it corresponds the http://aetherwave...der.html - so that the European bats will suffer at the USA anyway.

You are very stupid my friend, this is a European disease and European bats are more resilient. If they want to prevent more bat populations falling they should introduce European bats.