Bat populations across eastern North America are at risk of extinction -- possibly within just 16 years -- as a result of the spreading incidence of white-nose syndrome, according to a study published this week in Science.
Little brown bat with WNS
Image: Alan Hicks
"I think people who study and care about bats had a sense that something this dire was happening," said evolutionary physiologist linkurl:Craig Willis; of the University of Winnipeg, who did not participate in the study. But, he added, "the speed -- the 16 year timeline -- I think was a bit of a surprise." "It's a sobering analysis," agreed microbiologist linkurl:David Blehert; of the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, who was also not involved in the research. White-nose syndrome (WNS) was first discovered in the United States in 2006 in a cave in upstate New York. Since that time, the fungus-induced disease has been...
Geomyces destructans
Used by permission of the Trustees of Boston University. All rights reserved
ScienceW.F. Frick, et al., "An emerging disease causes regional population collapse of a common North American bat species," Science, 329:679-82, 2010. D.G. Streicker, et al., "Host phylogeny constrains cross-species emergence and establishment of rabies virus in bats," Science, 329:676-9, 2010.

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to more than 35 years of archives, as well as TS Digest, digital editions of The Scientist, feature stories, and much more!