Tuesday, October 25, 2011

There's trouble in the bat cave

By Dan Ashe
The Sacramento Bee

It's October, which means that bats are once again having their annual star turn, popping up on classroom bulletin boards and store windows across America. But this year, actual living bats in North America aren't so abundant. They are being decimated by a deadly health epidemic.

The disease causing this die-off is called white-nose syndrome, and it is infecting hibernating bat populations across the Eastern states. In the four years since it was first detected, white-nose syndrome has spread quickly from a cave in upstate New York, the epicenter, to 16 states and four Canadian provinces. It has killed more than 1 million bats.

Biologists in New York first started to notice dead and dying bats with unusual symptoms in 2007. Named for a fuzzy white fungus that often grows on the muzzles, wings and tail membranes of infected bats, white-nose syndrome had never been seen in North America. As winter wore on, more and more bats were affected by the disease, and biologists watched helplessly as the bats prematurely left their caves and died in droves in the ice and snow in the Northeast.

Scientists worked quickly to identify the culprit, a newly found fungus associated with the disease, Geomyces destructans. European biologists noticed that many bats also had a white fungus but they were not dying. Genetic comparison confirmed North American and European fungi were a match.

Scientists hypothesize that the fungus was accidentally introduced into the New York cave by a human, and American bats, unlike their European counterparts, have little or no resistance to the disease.

Exact reasons are unknown. Physical differences may play a role (European bats tend to be bigger). It's also possible that European bats co-evolved with the fungus, allowing them to develop resistance, or that environmental differences cause the fungus to behave differently in North America.

Global travel has made the introduction of foreign plants, animals and pathogens as easy as dropping anchor or hopping on a plane. Importers, anglers, explorers and even gardeners can easily transport invasive pathogens on clothing and footwear, or in shipments of goods...

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ScienceShot: Case Closed on Bat Fungus

by Daniel Strain

A potential bat killer is guilty as charged. Scientists say they've finally fingered the culprit behind the deadly bat disease known as white nose syndrome: the fungus Geomyces destructans. Disease experts had previously cultured the fungus from the white dustings that cover the noses and wings of infected bats. But it wasn't clear whether the potential pathogen was the main cause of the epidemic, which has spread plaguelike throughout the northeastern United States, or just a side effect. In a study published online today [October 26, 2011] in Nature, researchers spread G. destructans samples onto healthy little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus), and all developed tell-tale lesions within several months...

Read the full story at link.


Ash borer found in trap in southern Albany County, New York

Associated Press

ALBANY -- State officials say an emerald ash borer has been found in a southern Albany County trap, the first discovered north of a major infestation in the Hudson Valley.

Michael Bopp, a Department of Environmental Conservation spokesman, says Tuesday the destructive beetle was stuck to a purple trap in Selkirk...

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