The resistance of a North American bat species (Eptesicus fuscus) to White-nose Syndrome (WNS)

PLoS One. 2014 Dec 1;9(12):e113958. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0113958. eCollection 2014.

Abstract

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is the primary cause of over-winter mortality for little brown (Myotis lucifugus), northern (Myotis septentrionalis), and tricolored (Perimyotis subflavus) bats, and is due to cutaneous infection with the fungus Pseudogymnoascus (Geomyces) destructans (Pd). Cutaneous infection with P. destructans disrupts torpor patterns, which is thought to lead to a premature depletion of body fat reserve. Field studies were conducted at 3 WNS-affected hibernation sites to determine if big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) are resistant to Pd. Radio telemetry studies were conducted during 2 winters to determine the torpor patterns of 23 free-ranging E. fuscus hibernating at a site where Pd occurs. The body fat contents of free-ranging E. fuscus and M. lucifugus during hibernation at 2 different WNS-affected sites were also determined. The numbers of bats hibernating at the same site was determined during both: a) 4-7 years prior to the arrival of Pd, and, b) 2-3 years after it first appeared at this site. The torpor bouts of big brown bats hibernating at a WNS-affected site were not significantly different in length from those previously reported for this species. The mean body fat content of E. fuscus in February was nearly twice that of M. lucifugus hibernating at the same WNS-affected sites during this month. The number of M. lucifugus hibernating at one site decreased by 99.6% after P. destructans first appeared, whereas the number of E. fuscus hibernating there actually increased by 43% during the same period. None of the E. fuscus collected during this study had any visible fungal growth or lesions on their skin, whereas virtually all the M. lucifugus collected had visible fungal growth on their wings, muzzle, and ears. These findings indicate that big brown bats are resistant to WNS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Chiroptera*
  • Dermatomycoses / microbiology
  • Dermatomycoses / veterinary*
  • Hibernation
  • Male
  • North America
  • Population Density
  • Remote Sensing Technology / methods

Grant support

This study was supported by National Science Foundation (NSF) grant IOS-0818222 awarded to C.L.F. (www.nsf.gov) and a Fordham University Summer Science Internship awarded to M.R. (www.fordham.edu). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.