Fungus threatens the extinction of many species of bats

Fungus threatens the extinction of many species of batsMOSCOW, Oct. 26 — RIA Novosti. American biologists proven guilty Geomyces destructans fungus in outbreaks of so-called "white nose syndrome" — a disease that threatens the extinction of many species of wild bats in Canada and the United States, a study published in the journal Nature.

Over the past five years, many kinds of American bats have significantly reduced their numbers by white nose syndrome — a fungal infection that affects the skin of mammals, bats and leaves white patches on their face and other exposed parts of the body. According to scientists, the disease has destroyed about a million mice since its discovery in the caves of New York in 2006.

Team of biologists led by David Bleerta (David Blehert) of Wildlife Health Center in Madison (USA) proved that the alleged agent of the syndrome — a fungus Geomyces destructans — is the main and only culprit of this disease.

As noted by the authors, the fungus becomes more active during hibernation and begins to multiply, releasing white spores like powder. This drains the animal and eventually leads to his death. Mechanisms of infection and the possible causes of the disease are still poorly understood. Some scholars suggest that the fungus is actually a secondary infection that enters the body of mice, weakened by some primary pathogen.

Bleert and his colleagues have attempted to answer this question by tracing the development of the disease in thirty Brown Myotis (Myotis lucifugus), infected by a fungus, which scientists have grown from spores on the body of their dead relatives.

Fungus threatens the extinction of many species of batsAs part of his experiment, scientists have put his team in a special cell in which to maintain a stable low temperature — 6-7 degrees Celsius. Obeying biologically inherent "program", Myotis plunged into sleep, the scientists caused fungus on their wings. After three months, all bats were covered with white coating, and their bodies were formed blisters, then biologists have stopped the experiment.

Next, the authors tested whether the wild brown bats, white nose syndrome patients, infect their 'home' relatives. Researchers have caught a few wild animals and put them in the fridge in the same company with healthy animals. It turned out that the vast majority of healthy animals — 89% — picked up the fungus from their wild relatives.

Scientists attribute this to the fact that bats, like many other species of bats collected in the "swarm" just before hibernation and mate with all the individuals of the opposite sex.

As noted in the article, the fungus spores Geomyces destructans not airborne — healthy bats that lived in the isolated cells for months, did not acquire the disease from sick mice from neighboring cells.

Similar numbers and appearance of blisters on the skin, and the absence of internal damage in mice indicates that the fungus is the only microorganism guilty of white nose syndrome epidemic.

On the other hand, contamination led to the death of a small number of Myotis — about 25%, and the surviving mice had lost only a small fraction of body weight. As the study said, the cycle of the fungus takes about 180-200 days, as evidenced by the mass death of bats in the early spring, after 205 days of care in hibernation.

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