Widespread Bat White-Nose Syndrome Fungus, Northeastern China
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Predicting species' fates following the introduction of a novel pathogen is a significant and growing problem in conservation. Comparing disease dynamics between introduced and endemic regions can offer insight into which naive hosts will persist or go extinct, with disease acting as a filter on host communities. We examined four hypothesized mechanisms for host–pathogen persistence by comparing host infection patterns and environmental reservoirs for Pseudogymnoascus destructans (the causative agent of white-nose syndrome) in Asia, an endemic region, and North America, where the pathogen has recently invaded. Although colony sizes of bats and hibernacula temperatures were very similar, both infection prevalence and fungal loads were much lower on bats and in the environment in Asia than North America. These results indicate that transmission intensity and pathogen growth are lower in Asia, likely due to higher host resistance to pathogen growth in this endemic region, and not due to host tolerance, lower transmission due to smaller populations, or lower environmentally driven pathogen growth rate. Disease filtering also appears to be favouring initially resistant species in North America. More broadly, determining the mechanisms allowing species persistence in endemic regions can help identify species at greater risk of extinction in introduced regions, and determine the consequences for disease dynamics and host–pathogen coevolution.