Dr. David Blehert, a microbiologist with the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, presents on white-nose syndrome, an infectious disease among bats and its impact on the ecosystem in the 21st century… this presentation took place in March, 2012.
Dr. David Blehert – Microbiologist, USGS, National Wildlife Health Center
Thank you, Bill, for the very nice introduction and thanks to Hannah Hamilton for inviting me and the USGS communications group for arranging my visit.
So today, I’m going to talk about bats and new bat disease. Let’s see if I can get my slides to advance. Can everybody hear me okay?
So let me just begin by saying a little bit about bats to get us all on the same page.
Introduction – Bats
Bats are the only mammals that are capable of self-powered flights. Most are nocturnal. Perhaps these adaptations of being one of the few animals that’s out flying in the night sky when there’s otherwise lack of aerial predators has afforded this group of animals with the evolutionary opportunity to diverge into a huge number of species.
Bats are the second most species diverse group of mammals on the planet. Only behind rodents. There are about 1,100 species of bats out of a total 5,500 or so species of mammals. And just an amazing amount of adaptations, if you look at this giant fruit bat on the screen here, this animal consumes ripe fruit. This is nectar-feeding bat that can hover in front of cactus flowers and lap the nectar.
Here’s a bat that’s got both white and black fur. It’s the spotted bat in the American Southwest. With these huge ears, I think this animal is known to forge for insects on the ground and they can say that it can actually hear their footsteps.
And here we have a bulldog bat — which actually eats fish and it catches them right out of the water.
Fungal disease and fungal pathogens
So, to transition the topic of today’s talk, a disease of bats — white-nose syndrome is a fungal disease. Of all the various pathogens or disease agents that we know of, and I’m a microbiologist so I know of a lot of these — even for microbiologist, fungi are not often the first that come to mind when talking about disease.