Deadly Bat Fungus Now in 22 States, 5 Provinces

The white-nose syndrome fungus that is killing bats in their caves has now spread to 22 U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces.

"A dead tri-colored bat (Perimyotis subflavus) found at Table Rock State Park in South Carolina has tested positive for Geomyces destructans, the deadly and mysterious fungus that has killed millions of bats since it was first observed in February 2006. The fungus has now been found in 21 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces. [Update March 12: Cases found in Georgia as well.]

When visible, G. destructans manifests as a fuzzy white patch on bats’ noses, wings and other hairless parts of their body, a condition that yielded the name white-nose syndrome (WNS). Scientists do not yet know if the fungus itself is killing the bats or if it is just a symptom of whatever else is causing the deaths. What we do know is that bat populations that contract the fungus have a 70 to 100 percent mortality rate. There is no known cure or treatment. The fungus thrives only in cold conditions, so WNS appears to threaten only hibernating bats at this time.

“The news that white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in South Carolina is devastating for these very important mammals,” Mary Bunch, wildlife biologist with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR), said in a prepared release. “We will continue to work closely with our partners to understand the spread of this deadly disease and to help minimize its impacts to affected bat species.”"

John R. Platt reports for Scientific American's Extinction Countdown blog March 11, 2013.

Source: Scientific American, 03/13/2013