June 15, 2010 | 2
The deadly fungal infection that afflicts bats known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) has now been found on another U.S. bat species, the ninth since the infection was first observed four years ago. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, WNS has now beset 20 percent of North America’s bat species.
WNS’s latest victim is the southeastern myotis (Myotis austroriparius), which lives in the Gulf Coastal Plain and the lower Mississippi Alluvial Plain. An infected myotis bat was found in Virginia’s Pocahontas State Park in May. It died soon after it was captured by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
The fungus that causes WNS grows on bats’ facial skin and flight membranes, possibly causing them to starve. In caves where it has been observed bats have suffered morality rates ranging from 75 to 100 percent. It has killed at least one million bats and spread throughout the eastern U.S. since the fungus was first observed in New York State in 2006. WNS was also recently discovered in Ontario and Quebec. Caves in many states have been closed to prevent humans from possibly further spreading the fungus.
Scientists still do not know what causes WNS, nor how to prevent or cure it.
Image: Bats exhibiting signs of white-nose syndrome. Photo by Al Hicks; New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service