music; ambience: cave, water dripping, camera
â€œForty-five and 46, and that individual does have White Nose.â€
Thatâ€™s researcher Justin Boyles. In early 2008, he reported on the health of bat colonies affected by a mysterious new disease called White Nose Syndrome, characterized by a white fungus on the nose, ears, and wing membranes of bats. Welcome to Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries, a glimpse of the world of science from the inside. This month a look back at some of our favorite Science Diary stories.
â€œOne of the ideas that has been proposed by several people is that these bats have a lowered immune response because they’re hibernating. One of the ways they might be able to avoid that is to warm up a little bit, which would possibly increase their immune response. We don’t actually know that. So what we’re doing today is trying to take thermal images to see if the infected bats are in fact warmer than the uninfected bats.â€
Al Hicks, a wildlife biologist with New Yorkâ€™s Department of Environmental Conservation, was one of the first scientists to discover White Nose Syndrome.
[ambience bat squeaks, cave]
â€œThe problem that we’re seeing is that bats that would typically hibernate until at least mid-April, some of them even into mid-May, they’re running out of fat reserves months in advance, and theyâ€™re starving. That’s what appears to be happening. And we don’t know why.â€
Well, the syndrome has wiped out hundreds of thousands of bats in New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. And since we first ran these programs in early 2008, White Nose Syndrome has spread into Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Postmortem evaluations of infected bats have revealed a fungus as yet undescribed by science.
Pulse of the Planetâ€™s Science Diaries are made possible by the National Science Foundation. Iâ€™m Jim Metzner.