Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mysterious Disease Claims Lives Of More Than 10,000 Bats In New York Area

Date:
February 29, 2008
Source:
Indiana State University
Summary:
Last year at four caves near Albany, N.Y., more than 10,000 bats died from a mysterious disease involving a white fungus growing on some bats' noses, leading researchers to dub it "white-nose syndrome." The mounting death toll stopped last year when spring arrived and the bats left the caves. But the deaths returned with a vengeance after the bats went into hibernation this winter.

Bats found in a New York cave show the signs of white-nose syndrome.
Credit: Photo/ Al Hicks with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation

When Jonathan Storm and Justin Boyles journeyed to New York to investigate what is killing entire colonies of bats, the two Indiana State University doctoral students found bats in crisis.

Last year at four caves near Albany, N.Y., more than 10,000 bats died from a mysterious disease involving a white fungus growing on some bats’ noses, leading researchers to dub it “white-nose syndrome.”

The mounting death toll stopped last year when spring arrived and the bats left the caves. But the deaths returned with a vengeance after the bats went into hibernation this winter. With 14 known caves infected across New York, Vermont and Massachusetts, scientists estimate as many as 500,000 bats may currently be affected with the syndrome.

“Our only hope at this stage is we’re not too far from the spring thaw,” said Dale Sparks, assistant director of the Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation at Indiana State University.

Storm and Boyles, who are working on doctorates in the ecology and organismal biology department, were selected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to take part in the research hoping to unravel the mystery of what is leading to the bats’ deaths. Using a thermal imaging camera, Boyles and Storm entered caves in the Catskill Mountains of New York to record the hibernating animals’ body temperatures during several days in February.

“What we expected to find and what the bats were doing are two different things,” said Boyles, who is from Osceola, Mo.

Normally, the men said, when someone enters a cave, the bats’ body temperatures rise, they arouse and they begin flying around the cave. “We couldn’t wake the bats up at all,” Boyles said. “In one cave, we spent 10 hours and never saw a response.”

The bats’ body temperatures though were “fairly normal” for hibernation at about 37 degrees Fahrenheit, they said.

At some caves, bats managed to rouse themselves to hunt food, which is scarce in February. “Probably the more depressing part was seeing all of the bats evacuating the caves,” Boyles said.

“You’d see bats everywhere trying to find food,” Storm, from Earlham, Iowa, added. “There were many dead bats outside the caves. There will likely be more soon as more bats run out of fat reserves and leave the caves to find food.”

What scientists don’t know is whether the fungus itself or some other ailment is killing the bats. Some of the bats have had pneumonia. They all are underweight and some are leaving their caves in attempts to find food.

“The bats are basically starving to death,” said Storm. “They don’t have any fat stores left to make it through winter.”

The two men had recently weighed non-infected bats in Ohio. When they weighed the bats in New York, they weighed less than the smallest bats from Ohio.

While the little brown bat, a common species, has been hit the hardest, another species, the endangered Indiana bat, also has been infected.

But the impact of the bats’ deaths could be felt for centuries to come. “These bats reproduce very, very slowly,” Boyles said. “Whatever happens now, it could take hundreds of years for the populations to bounce back.”

That in turn could impact crops and humans, as bats eat thousands of insects in one night of foraging.

Although the disease has not been found in bats hibernating in Indiana, Boyles, Sparks and Storm urged spelunkers to take precautions after leaving a cave by washing their gear with bleach or rubbing alcohol.

“It’s unlikely a virus would spread from cave to cave, as many viruses die quickly when exposed to the environment,” Sparks said. “Fungal spores, however, could be carried to another place.”

The Center for North American Bat Research and Conservation has offered to collect donations and other funding to help in fighting the disease, said John Whitaker, center director.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Indiana State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Indiana State University. "Mysterious Disease Claims Lives Of More Than 10,000 Bats In New York Area." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080227214208.htm>.
Indiana State University. (2008, February 29). Mysterious Disease Claims Lives Of More Than 10,000 Bats In New York Area. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 29, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080227214208.htm
Indiana State University. "Mysterious Disease Claims Lives Of More Than 10,000 Bats In New York Area." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/02/080227214208.htm (accessed July 29, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

Deadly Ebola Virus Threatens West Africa

AP (July 28, 2014) West African nations and international health organizations are working to contain the largest Ebola outbreak in history. It's one of the deadliest diseases known to man, but the CDC says it's unlikely to spread in the U.S. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating

AP (July 28, 2014) Classes are being offered nationwide to encourage African Americans to learn about cooking fresh foods based on traditional African cuisine. The program is trying to combat obesity, heart disease and other ailments often linked to diet. (July 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Asteroid's Timing Was 'Colossal Bad Luck' For The Dinosaurs

Newsy (July 28, 2014) The asteroid that killed the dinosaurs struck at the worst time for them. A new study says that if it hit earlier or later, they might've survived. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge from Nest

AP (July 27, 2014) A live-streaming webcam catches loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings emerging from a nest in the Florida Keys. (July 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins