Like germophobes who avoid the mall during flu season, North America’s most common bat species is changing its social behavior as a result of disease, new research says. Little brown bats, which have been decimated by a fungus known as white-nose, are turning into loners.
Every night in Texas, vast swarms of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from caves to dine, swarming in dense clouds and plucking huge amounts of insects out of the air. They dip, swirl and turn on a dime to chase their prey, while somehow avoiding collisions with each other. To study how they do this, bat researchers from Boston University built a quadcopter to fly with them and purposefully get in their faces.
Biologists are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine whether the little brown bat — formerly one of the most common mammals in North America — should be added to the endangered species list, bat conservationists said Thursday.
Bat Con 2010 could have been a decidedly depressing science meeting, with days full of papers discussing bat deaths from white-nose syndrome, wind turbines and killings by superstitious people. But not everything was doom-and-gloom.
Just in time for the annual North American bat summit, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had some good news — there’s finally a plan for how to fight white-nose syndrome, which is killing hundreds of thousands of bats across the continent.
The plan coordinates more than 50 state and federal agencies to study etiology and epidemiology, disease surveillance and more. White-nose has spread through 11 states since its discovery four years ago and is expected to reach the midwest and west this winter.
DENVER — Gerald Carter walked over to Dave Dalton's table and paused, listening to a discussion about infrared light. He set down his backpack full of video and audio equipment and smiled. "I love this lamp. I left it running for three months," he said, eyeing a round black object. He has three hard drives' worth of vampire bat videos, all illuminated by the special infrared lamp Dalton sells. It's a fondness only bat researchers could appreciate.
DENVER — What's a crisis if not an opportunity? Scores of graduate students reporting new research at a bat conference this week shows the two are tightly bound.
Students are working on the front lines of one of conservation biology's biggest challenges: The widespread death of bats from white-nose syndrome. The fast-moving fungus, which is expected to infiltrate much of the midwest and west this winter, is causing equally brisk priority shifts in academic institutions across the continent.