Fungus Loves Cold, Kills Bat

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A fungus may have caused the white-nose syndrome, a condition associated with the death of over 100,000 hibernating bats in northeastern US. Geological Survey microbiologists identified the fungus: a member of the Geomyces group that lives in soil, water and air and is capable of growing and reproducing in very cold temperatures. Data showed that the disease spread to other cities from where it was first spotted in New York in 2006. Genetic studies on the fungus from distant caves showed that the microbe was introduced recently. If so, the cause may lie in human and animal movements through these caves, the researchers said. It is not yet clear whether the syndrome emerged due to the fungus or whether it already existed in caves and began infecting bats after they were weakened by some other cause.


Down To Earth, December 2008