Wing pathology of white-nose syndrome in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology

Paul M. Cryan
Carol Uphoff Meteyer
Justin G. Boyles


White-nose syndrome (WNS) is causing unprecedented declines in several species of North American bats. The characteristic lesions of WNS are caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, which erodes and replaces the living skin of bats while they hibernate. It is unknown how this infection kills the bats. We review here the unique physiological importance of wings to hibernating bats in relation to the damage caused by G. destructans and propose that mortality is caused by catastrophic disruption of wing-dependent physiological functions. Mechanisms of disease associated with G. destructans seem specific to hibernating bats and are most analogous to disease caused by chytrid fungus in amphibians.