N American bats face extinction in 16 years: Ag and human health at stake

By Jef Akst
The Scientist

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

5 responses to “N American bats face extinction in 16 years: Ag and human health at stake

  1. Very interesting article and I will start spreading the word on this one as well! I have been following the honey bee hive collapse syndrome for quite awhile which greatly concerns me too.

  2. I’m glad that finally we are realizing how important bats are to our environment and are being duly concerned about WNS. It is good news also to learn that some bat species are found to be resistant to WNS, and hopefully that there is research going on to address this scourge for those bats who are not immune to its lethal effects.

    • I can’t help but wonder if the use of pesticides, absorbed by resistant pests, creates problems for insectivores like bats. Another factor may be the GMO crops eaten by insects, then ingested by bats and other insectivores – do the transgenes alter bat genes making them more susceptible to WNS?

  3. I heard on the radio that this is also occurring in Europe. The scientist are quite sure why this is happening. They say that the bats are waking up early from their hibernation and then leave the caves looking for food. The bats starve to death. Horrible, absolutely horrible. I always liked bats and still do.

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