White nose syndrome

White nose syndrome

White nose syndrome is a poorly understood malady associated with the deaths of thousands of batscite news |title=Dying Bats In The Northeast U.S. Remain A Mystery |author=Hicks, Al |date=2008-05-11 |publisher=Science Daily |url=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/05/080508170916.htm] . The condition, named for a distinctive ring of fungal growth around the muzzles, and on the wings of many affected animals, was first identified in several caves near Albany, New York in January 2007cite news |title=Bat Deaths in NY, Vt. Baffle Experts |author=Hill, Michael |date=2008-01-30 |publisher=Associated Press |url=http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5jglXh1LrwpTZZW0QjCD_H91BgVYwD8UGF9101 |accessdate=2008-02-14] but has spread to other New York caves and into Vermont and Massachusetts in 2008 [cite news |title=Bat affliction found in Vermont and Massachusetts caves |date=2008-02-15 |accessdate-2008-02-20 |url=http://www.newsday.com/news/local/wire/newyork/ny-bc-ny--batdie-off0215feb15,0,232424.story |publisher=Newsday.com] . The condition has been found in over 25 caves and mines mostly in the northeastern U.S.

Possible causes

One researcher suspects a cause of the syndrome may be bat flies and this possibility is being investigated. Bat flies are small parasites that live in a bat's hair and feed on its blood. They may be involved in transmission of a pathogen. [cite news | title=To Find Out What's Eating Bats, Biologist Takes To Barn Rooftops |author=Dittmar, Katherinna | date=2008-06-25 |publisher=Science Daily | url=http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080624152257.htm]

The fungus involved in white nose syndrome has been identified as belonging to the genus "Fusarium", usually associated with plants. The fungal growth may be an opportunistic infection, rather than the actual cause of the condition. A loss of winter fat stores [cite web |title=Unidentified Ailment Threatens Bat Populations |format=pdf |publisher=U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service |url=http://www.fws.gov/nc-es/Unidentified%20Ailment%20Threatens%20Bat%20Populations.pdf |date=2008-02-14] , pneumonia, [cite news |title=Bat deaths defy diagnosis |author=Barid, Joel Banner |work=Burlington Free Press |date=2008-02-02 |accessdate=2008-02-14 |url=http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080202/NEWS01/802020307/1009] and the disruption of hibernation and feeding cycles caused by warm and variable winter weathercite news |author=Munger, Edward, Jr. |title=Group asking cavers to keep out |url=http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/feb/14/0214_caves/ |work=Daily Gazette |date=2008-02-14 |accessdate=2008-02-14] have all been suggested as causes or contributing factors.

Because no one yet knows how the condition spreads, cave management and preservation organizations have been requesting that cavers limit their activities and disinfect clothing and equipment that has been used in possibly infected caves. [cite web |title=Something is killing our bats: The white-nose syndrome mystery |publisher=U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service |url=http://www.fws.gov/northeast/white_nose.html |accessdate=2008-02-14] In some cases, access to caves is being closed entirely. Despite these efforts, the spread of the disease to Aeolus Cave, New England's largest hibernaculum, which has had limited human access since 2004, "complicates" the theory that human activity is directly contributing to the condition. [cite news |title=Disease in Dorset bat cave |author=Waller, John |date=2008-02-20 |accessdate=2008-02-20 |url=http://www.manchesterjournal.com/localnews/ci_8313858 |work=Manchester Journal] As of March 2008, the disease has spread to western Massachusetts and northwestern Connecticut. The migratory nature of bats also threatens to spread the malady throughout the northeastern United States. [cite news |title=Mysterious illness killing bats in Northeast prompts precautions as wildlife researchers search for answers |date=2008-02-04 |publisher=New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection |url=http://www.state.nj.us/dep/newsrel/2008/08_0008.htm |accessdate=2008-02-14]


New York State Department of Environmental Conservation expert Alan Hicks has described the impact as "unprecedented" and "the gravest threat to bats ... ever seen." [cite news |title="The Gravest Threat to Bats Ever Seen" |author=Shapley, Dan |date=2008-02-05 |work=The Daily Green |url=http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/white-nose-syndrome-bats-47020509 |accessdate=2008-02-14] The mortality rate in some caves has exceeded 90 percent.cite news |title=Bats Perish, and No One Knows Why |author=Kelley, Tina |work=The New York Times |url=http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/25/science/25bats.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin/ |date=2008-03-25 |accessdate=2008-03-25] At greatest risk is the endangered Indiana bat, whose primary hibernaculum in New York has been affected. [cite news |title=Unexplained "White Nose" Disease Killing Northeast Bats |publisher=Environment News Service |date=2008-01-31 |url=http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jan2008/2008-01-31-094.asp |accessdate=2008-02-14] Deaths of eastern pipistrelles, northern long-eared myotis and little brown bats have also been attributed to the condition. [cite news |title=Bats in Ulster County affected by large die-off |url=http://www.dailyfreeman.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=19258486&BRD=1769&PAG=461&dept_id=74969&rfi=6 |author=Zangla, Ariel |date=2008-02-03 |accessdate=2008-02-14 |work=Daily Freeman] The long-term impact of the reduction in bat populations may be an increase in insects, possibly even leading to crop damage or other economic impact in New England.cite news |title=Die-off of bats could hurt area crops |author=Daley, Beth |work=The Boston Globe |url=http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/02/07/die_off_of_bats_could_hurt_area_crops/ |date=2008-02-07 |accessdate=2008-02-14]

Comparisons have been raised to colony collapse disorder, another poorly-understood phenomenon resulting in the abrupt disappearance of Western honey bee colonies. [cite news |title=Northeast Bat Die-Off Mirrors Honeybee Collapse |work=All Things Considered |publisher=National Public Radio |author=Mann, Bryan |url=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=19174588&ft=1&f=1001 |date=2008-02-19 |accessdate=2008-02-20 |format=audio]


External links

* [ftp://ftp.dec.state.ny.us/dpae/press/Bats/ Photos] from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation

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