Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Ecologists propose first prevention for white-nose syndrome death in bats

06.03.2009
Localized heating of caves during hibernation may reduce bat mortality

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a poorly understood condition that, in the two years since its discovery, has spread to at least seven northeastern states and killed as many as half a million bats. Now researchers have suggested the first step toward a measure that may help save the affected bats: providing localized heat sources to the hibernating animals.

"We have no idea why it's spreading so rapidly," says Justin Boyles, a graduate student in biology at Indiana State University and the first author of the paper, published this week in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment e-View.

The syndrome has baffled scientists since its discovery in the winter of 2006 in upstate New York, where hibernating bats were found with a mysterious white fungus growing on their faces and wing membranes. Hundreds of emaciated bats were found dead in and around their caves, suggesting that they had starved to death during their hibernating months, and affected populations commonly suffer 75 to 100 percent mortality.

The origins of WNS are virtually unknown – scientists just identified the fungus species last month. But they are still mystified by its relationship to such unprecedented bat mortality.

Boyles and his coauthor Craig Willis of the University of Winnipeg tested the idea, suspected by many in the bat research community, that the fungus causes bats to spend more time out of hibernation during the winter. Mammals must rouse from hibernation periodically, but doing so too often or for long periods of time is energetically costly. When they rouse, the bats must use body energy to keep warm; spending too much time out of hibernation may deplete their fat reserves and cause them to starve to death, say the authors.

Because of the rapid spread of the fungus and the fact that field experiments can take months to years to complete, Boyles and Willis instead created a mathematical simulation to test the idea that the fungus is causing bats to spend more time out of hibernation. Their model took into account the patterns of arousal, body mass and percentage body fat of a particular species, called little brown bats, which are affected by the fungus.

The simulation showed that the patterns and proportion – about 82 percent – of bat mortality observed in affected populations in the wild are consistent with a large increase in the amount of time spent out of hibernation during the winter months. Their results, they say, provide evidence that the fungus is likely affecting bat hibernation patterns.

The researchers then took the simulation one step further. They reasoned that one way to help affected bats save their energy reserves and survive the winter is to provide them with a heat source, so they don't have to create as much body heat when they rouse. Bats often fly to the warmest parts of their cave during bouts of arousal.

"They already do this in the wild," Boyles says. "What we're suggesting is accentuating that behavior."

When the authors altered the simulation to include localized heat sources the bats could gather in during arousals, the model showed that mortality levels dropped to as little as 8 percent.

These results could be used in the short-term to prevent bat populations from crashing below sustainable levels, the authors say. They are currently developing a system, using wooden boxes and heating coils, to create warm pockets in bat caves. The plan holds no guarantees: the overall temperature in the cave needs to stay cold enough so that bats can still lower their body temperatures during hibernation. But the researchers are optimistic.

"By insulating the bat boxes and carefully selecting where we will place them, we think we can solve this issue," says Willis.

Further, saving afflicted animals may not be sustainable in the long term, say the authors. If WNS is transmitted in spring and summer by surviving bats, saving its carriers will also save the disease, they write. At present, the search for a remedy for this mysterious fungus continues to stymie scientists.

"I can't even guess what the cure or the solution to this is going to be," says Boyles. "This isn't a cure. We're going for a stopgap."

Christine Buckley | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.esa.org

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Global threat to primates concerns us all
19.01.2017 | Deutsches Primatenzentrum GmbH - Leibniz-Institut für Primatenforschung

nachricht Reducing household waste with less energy
18.01.2017 | FIZ Karlsruhe – Leibniz-Institut für Informationsinfrastruktur GmbH

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>