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Publication Date

January 2014

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Excerpt: "Maligned in old wives' tales for "getting in your hair" and wrongly considered a primary vector for rabies, bats are in fact among the most important contributors to Earth's ecosystems. They are a keystone species in cave ecosystems, their guano adding allochthonous nutrients to an otherwise energy-limited environment; they are important seed dispersers, particularly in tropical forests; and they provide critical ecological services to humankind. In this latter role, insectivorous bats are one of the most overlooked yet important animals. In the United States alone, bats provide between $4 and $50 billion annually in pest-control- related ecological services to agriculture. Other bat species are important pollinators for agave-the plant used for making tequila. Yet, North American bat colonies are facing a crisis with the westward advance of white- nose syndrome (WNS), a disease responsible for the deaths of nearly seven million bats since it was first detected in Howe Cave, near Albany, New York, during the winter of 2006- 2007. Since then, WNS has been confirmed in 23 states and 5 Canadian provinces. WNS is a disease caused by the cold-loving fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which infects the skin of the ears, snout, and wings of hibernating bats. During hibernation, a bat's immune response is in a suppressed state as are other metabolic functions, enabling the fungus to spread relatively unchecked. When fully expressed, WNS often presents as a prominent white fungal growth. The fungal hyphae penetrate deeply into the connective tissue and cause severe damage..." Open Access - Permission by Author(s) See Extended description for more information.





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