NAU Research Team Narrowing In On Evolution Of Deadly Bat Fungus

Published: Friday, December 15, 2017 - 7:22am

After discovering a cave full of dead bats in New York in 2007, the U.S. Geological National Wildlife Health Center determined it was caused by a deadly fungus called White-Nose Syndrome.

Three years later, the center asked scientists at Northern Arizona University to help pinpoint where it came from.

Tracking genome patterns, Jeff Foster and his team began identifying cases worldwide and found similar strains of the fungus had existed in European bats for centuries.

“It’s promising because many of the bats have the fungus on them, but the bats there are not dying,” Foster said.

Despite infecting cross populations of bat species in Europe, he is focused on the European bats’ grit against the disease.

They’ve found some way to co-exist with this fungus,” he said.

While the heartier bats will follow their European relatives and evolve, Foster estimates it will take decades for the North American bat populations to recover.

So far, he said the fungus has not shown up in Arizona, but it has migrated over the Rockies and decimated bat populations as far west as Washington.

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