Resource capture and competitive ability of non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus spp. and P. destructans, the cause of white-nose syndrome in bats

Michael B. Wilson
Benjamin W. Held
Amanda H. Freiborg


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a devastating fungal disease that has been causing the mass mortality of hibernating bats in North America since 2006 and is caused by the psychrophilic dermatophyte Pseudogymnoascus destructans. Infected bats shed conidia into hibernaculum sediments and surfaces, but it is unknown if P. destructans can form stable, reproductive populations outside its bat hosts. Previous studies have found non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus in bat hibernacula, and these fungi may provide insight into the natural history of P. destructans. We compared the relatedness, resource capture, and competitive ability of non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus isolates with P. destructans to determine if they have similar adaptations for survival in hibernacula sediment. All non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus isolates grew faster, utilized a broader range of substrates with higher efficiency, and were generally more resistant to antifungals compared to P. destructans. All isolates also showed the ability to displace P. destructans in co-culture assays, but some produced extractible antifungal metabolites. These results suggest that P. destructans would perform poorly in the same environmental niche as non-pathogenic Pseudogymnoascus, and must have an alternative saprophytic survival strategy if it establishes active populations in hibernaculum sediment and non-host surfaces.