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Chemical fingerprinting tracks the travels of little brown bats
Date:5/29/2012

They're tiny creatures with glossy, chocolate-brown hair, out-sized ears and wings. They gobble mosquitoes and other insect pests during the summer and hibernate in caves and mines when the weather turns cold. They are little brown bats, and a deadly disease called white-nose syndrome is threatening their very existence.

A novel technique using stable hydrogen isotopesa kind of chemical fingerprint found in tissues such as hairhas enabled researchers at Michigan Technological University to determine where hibernating bats originated. Knowing that could help predict and ultimately manage the spread of white-nose syndrome.

In the July issue of the journal Ecological Applications, Joseph Bump, an assistant professor at Michigan Tech's School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and a former undergraduate student in his lab, Alexis Sullivan, report on their use of stable hydrogen isotopes to identify the likely origins of the little brown bats that hibernate in three mines of Michigan's western Upper Peninsula.

Sullivan, who is first author on the paper, is now working on dual Master of Science degrees in Forest Molecular Genetics and Biotechnology at Michigan Tech and the Swedish University of Agricultural Science. She will receive degrees from both universities as part of the ATLANTIS Program, a transatlantic educational project jointly funded by the US Department of Education and the European Union.

Sullivan, Bump and colleagues Rolf Peterson and Laura Kruger studied the little brown bats that winter in the Quincy Mine in Hancock, Mich., the Caledonia Mine near Ontonagon, Mich., and the Norway Mine in Norway, Mich. They collected bat hair and tested it to identify the hydrogen fingerprint of the water where the bat grew the hair. Ecologists have developed maps of the distinctive hydrogen fingerprints of water from different locations, so the chemical fingerprints from the bat hair can be matched to
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Contact: Joseph Bump
jkbump@mtu.edu
906-231-7358
Michigan Technological University
Source:Eurekalert

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