Bats and White-nose syndrome

The Population of Bats are Dropping

October makes its way through every year with people getting excited for the holiday that is celebrated and that is Halloween. Ghosts, witches, ghouls, bats, you name it! Bats are a known symbol that is used to symbolize Halloween, but recently many scientists have discovered a new deadly disease that has killed more than 6.7 million bats since it was discovered in New York in 2006. This disease goes by the name of White-Nose Syndrome or White- Nose Fungus . And you might be wondering, “What makes this disease so deadly?”. Well the credible article on The Washington Post website has a clear definition of this catastrophic disease, “White-nose syndrome is caused by an aggressive fungus called Geomyces destructans that eats through the skin and membranes of bats. It was first detected at Howes Cave near Albany, N.Y., in 2006.” The worst part is bats are effected by this disease when there guard is down, when they’re hibernating during the winter and that is when their immune systems are down to low levels.  When bats are hibernating, their heart rate and temperature drops and they are able to survive the winter but when the White-Nose Syndrome takes over, they wake up from their hibernation every 4 or 5 days and are up and flying around looking for food and water but in the middle of winter it’s rather difficult to find those necessities to survive. “The bats end up dying, experts believe, of thirst, starvation or tissue degradation. And they have been dying in jaw-dropping numbers: many bat caves have lost 90 to 100 percent of their population,” which is said in the article that is provided by the WBR . Bats have actually made it to the list of endangered species and with thousands of bats dying each year, biologist worry for the impact it will have on the food web and how there won’t be predators like bats to eat insects and prevent the population of insects to overpopulate. Without bats insect would be overpopulating other predators in the food web and there would be problems involving the ecosystem that surrounds the bat. For more information you can visit, White Nose Syndrome for more information.

Bats are important creatures to have in the ecosystem and this disease is becoming a bigger problem each year and scientist say that there is a little hope for the population of bats to grow again but it might take many years, possibly decades for them to repopulate. To me bats have a very important ecological and economical role in life. Recently in our Honors Biology class we are learning about the Colony Collapse Disorder on the population of bees. Just like the honeybees are major producers and help pollinate 1/3 of the fruits and vegetables we eat, bats do the same. The major declining in the population of bats is causing major world crisis. People are coming together to help these creatures and I find it fascinating that biologist are willing to take their time to visit caves and check to see how the bats living in those caves are doing.

I agree with biologists that if we don’t do something to help these creatures there numbers will continue to fall. Bats are species that are now categorized as endangered species which means that this problem has elevated to another level and it’s going to get much more worse. Good news is that scientist are exploring caves from all around the world and trying their best to help save these animals from extinction. The problem is this fungus isn’t always visible to the naked eye which makes it quite difficult for scientist but most of the time the fungus covers their nose, making it look like white powder on their face. The fungus also gets on the hairless parts of their bodies, their wings for example, which causes the bat to be unable to fly properly.

There is more to the story and there is good news to this catastrophe. National Geographic has an article about a possible Treatment of White Nose Syndrome. Yes that is right, there might be a possibility that scientist have found a cure to this fungus. The article states, “The treatment is based on a bacterium that inhibits fungal growth,” and a description of this treatment nd what it is. It is “a cloud of chemicals given off by the bacteria—a strain of Rhodococcus rhodochrous—that seems to be the key to killing or slowing the deadly fungus.” Many bats have been sent back to the wild after they were given this treatment and scientist say that if they are treated early they can even stop the fungus from spreading to their wings. Once I read the article I thought it was wonderful that there is a treatment that has proven to cure these bats from the fungus and that also means that if scientist continue to treat them, the ecosystem won’t be harmed in any way.

A clear photograph on how the Fungus is visible to the naked eye.

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