By Jef Akst
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.
“I think people who study and care about bats had a sense that something this dire was happening,” said evolutionary physiologist 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 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 killing off bats across the eastern half of the continent, spreading as far west as Oklahoma. While the yearly declines observed in these populations were startling to scientists, no one had yet worked out the numbers to determine if the fungal pathogen (Geomyces destructans) was putting the winged mammals at risk of extinction.
Read full post at The Scientist