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Scientists tackle the mystery of white-nose syndrome in bats
Date:6/4/2009

man activity in the caves, which has already been implemented in the eastern U. S. The second proposed management scheme involves heating portions of cave hibernacula to help conserve the bats' energy reserves during arousals from hibernation so as to discourage the bats from leaving the cave to look for food before the spring. The disease disturbs the bats' hibernation patterns, thus causing the bat to become severely underweight.

"However, neither of these strategies has been seriously looked at from a scientific point-of-view," Hallam said.

Gary McCracken, workshop co-organizer and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UT Knoxville, said that some bats appear to have a resistance to the disease and that native bats in Europe appear to be immune to it. Both aspects need further investigation, he said.

"It does not kill all species. In affected species, roughly 5-10 percent survive, which is a viable survival rate. Given that there is evidence of resistance to the fungus and that it is not pathogenic to native bats in Europe, the potential exists that its spread is self-limiting," McCracken said.

Eating up to two-thirds of their body weight in insects over night, bats help keep insects under control, ultimately reducing the quantities of insecticides used on crops. Bats also play an important ecological role in plant pollination and seed dissemination.

In April, the U.S. Forest Service issued an emergency order to close caves and mines in 33 states for up to one year, while scientists work toward learning more about the disease. In 2009, WNS spread south from New England into West Virginia and Virginia and now threatens to spread to the Midwest and Southeast. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has also closed all its caves to the public, although evidence of the fungus has not been found in the park.

"Modeling WNS in Bats at the Individual and Colony Levels: Epizootiology and Management" will be
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Contact: Catherine Crawley
ccrawley@nimbios.org
865-974-9350
National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis
Source:Eurekalert

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