Bats on the Rebound?

Researchers cross state lines to put an end to bat-killing fungus. Can they introduce a cure before it’s too late?

BY KATHY LOVE | THE NEW TERRITORY ISSUE 01
Anna Zack and Joe Amelon modify an iButton sensor for use on a bat in the Forest Service "bat lab" at the University of Missouri. The small sensor will be attached to a bat and used to monitor their body temperature while they are studied in an artificial hibernaculum.

Anna Zack and Joe Amelon modify an iButton sensor for use on a bat in the Forest Service “bat lab” at the University of Missouri. The small sensor will be attached to a bat and used to monitor their body temperature while they are studied in an artificial hibernaculum. BENJAMIN ZACK

Ten years ago scientists in New York waded knee-deep in dead bats. They noted that the bats – thousands of them – were marked with white noses, leading to a name for the bats’ mysterious killer: White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). Since then, 6 million bats have died from the fungus, which starts as tiny white tentacles that infect the bats’ tissue. Eighty percent of the bat population in the northeastern U.S. has been wiped out.

The disease is steadily marching west. By 2010, scientists had confirmed the fungus in Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee. In 2011, the disease appeared in Missouri. By 2013, it reached Arkansas. Suspected cases have emerged among populations in eastern Nebraska and Oklahoma as recently as last year.

Now, a multi-state team of scientists is testing a treatment, and it starts from an unlikely place: the grocery store.


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ISSUE 01 MADE POSSIBLE BY OUR SPONSORS

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