January 17, 2010
January 17- Geomyces destructans
In 2006, a caver in upstate New York came across bats with an unusual white substance on their muzzles. By 2008, white nose syndrome (WNS), as it was now known, was reported in caves from Vermont to Virginia and thousands of bats were dying, with mortality rates of over 90% in some caves. The fungus growing on the bats has been indentified as Geomyces destructans, related to other soil fungi that are psychrophilic (=like cold temperatures). Bats with WNS often wake up from hibernation and begin to fly around, searching for food, as their fat reserves are low. This has caused a great deal of alarm as some endangered species of bats are at risk of extinction should they be exposed to the disease. But another worry are the trophic effects to the ecosystem if bats, potent insectivores, disappear in large numbers. One estimate, by the US Forest Service, is that there will be an extra 2.4 million pounds of bugs per year without the bats that have been killed by WNS. That will mean more crop pests and more mosquitoes and other disease vectors.
Read more about Geomyces destructans and white nose syndrome here and here.