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Bats Die by the Thousands From Mystery Malady in Northeast U.S.
Thousands of bats are dying from an unknown illness in the northeastern U.S. at a rate that could cause extinction, New York state wildlife officials said.
At eight caves in New York and one in Vermont, scientists have seen bat populations plummet over two years. Most bats hibernate in the same cave every winter, keeping annual counts consistent. A cave that had 1,300 bats in January 2006 had 470 bats last year. It recently sheltered just 38.
At another cave, more than 90 percent of about 15,500 bats have died since 2005, and two-thirds that remain now sleep near the cave's entrance, where conditions are less hospitable. Scientists don't know what's causing the deaths, and biologists wearing sanitary clothing and respirators to prevent the spread of disease are collecting the dead for testing as part of a state and U.S. effort.
“What we’ve seen so far is unprecedented,’’ said Alan Hicks, DEC’s bat specialist. “Most bat researchers would agree that this is the gravest threat to bats they have ever seen. We have bat researchers, laboratories and caving groups across the country working to understand the cause of the problem and ways to contain it. Until we know more, we are asking people to stay away from known bat caves.”
Bat biologists across the country are evaluating strategies to monitor the presence of the disease and collect specimens for laboratory analysis. Biologists are taking precautions – using sanitary clothing and respirators when entering caves -- to avoid spreading the disease in the process.
Little brown bats are sustaining the largest number of deaths, but northern long-eared, eastern pipistrelle and Indiana bats are also dying. “We know that Indiana bats, a species protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, have been affected in New York, and we are concerned about them in Vermont,” according to biologist Susi von Oettingen of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Northeast Region.
"We do not know how the disease is transmitted and whether there are any potential effects on humans," says Vermont Wildlife Biologist Scott Darling. "
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of this is that the syndrome has now reached the abandoned mine where half of New York’s endangered Indiana bats hibernate. “There are an awful lot of bat people, even a month ago before we had half of this bad news, all saying the same thing. We’ve never seen anything like it, and we’re all scared...”
Craig Stihler, a bat specialist with the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, says, "The fungus has been identified to the genus Fusarium, a common and widespread genus usually associated with plants. Pathologists that have examined the carcasses recovered from the New York sites do not believe the fungus is the main culprit. One guess at this time is that the fungus invades after the bats are stressed by some other factor."
Fusarium is a filamentous fungus widely distributed on plants and in the soil. It is found in normal mycoflora of commodities, such as rice, bean, soybean, and other crops . While most species are more common at tropical and subtropical areas, some inhabit in soil in cold climates. Some Fusarium species have a teleomorphic state [1295, 2202].
As well as being a common contaminant and a well-known plant pathogen, Fusarium spp. may cause various infections in humans. Fusarium is one of the emerging causes of opportunistic mycoses [63, 66, 531, 916, 1426, 1581, 1826, 1921, 2297, 2304].
Fusarium is one of the most drug-resistant fungi.
The genus includes a number of economically important plant pathogenic species. The genome of the wheat and maize pathogen, Fusarium graminearum, has been sequenced. In addition, some species may cause a range of opportunistic infections in humans. In humans with normal immune systems, fusarial infections may occur in the nails (onychomycosis) and in the cornea (keratomycosis or mycotic keratitis). In humans whose immune systems are weakened in a particular way (neutropenia, i.e., very low count of the white blood cell type called neutrophils), aggressive fusarial infections penetrating the entire body and bloodstream (disseminated infections) may be caused by members of the Fusarium solani complex, Fusarium oxysporum, Fusarium verticillioides, Fusarium proliferatum and rarely other fusarial species. The neutropenia in such cases is almost always the result of chemotherapy against certain kinds of leukemia or else heavy use of immunosuppressive drugs in problematic cases of major organ transplant surgery.
Mass casualties occurred in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 1940s when Fusarium-contaminated wheat flour was baked into bread, causing alimentary toxic aleukia with a 60% mortality rate. Symptoms began with abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and prostration. Within days fever, chills, myalgias and bone marrow depression with granulocytopenia and secondary sepsis. Further symptoms included pharyngeal or laryngeal ulceration and diffuse bleeding into the skin (petechiae and ecchymoses), melena, bloody diarrhea, hematuria, hematemesis, epistaxis, vaginal bleeding, Pancytopenia and gastrointestinal ulceration. Fusarium sporotrichoides contamination was found in affected grain in 1932, spurring research for medical purposes and for use in biological warfare. The active ingredient was found to be trichothecene T-2 mycotoxin, and was produced in quantity and weaponized prior to the passage of the Biological Weapons Convention in 1972. The Soviets were accused of using the agent, dubbed "yellow rain", to cause 6,300 deaths in Laos, Kampuchea, and Afghanistan between 1975 and 1981. The supposed biological warfare agent was later shown to be bee feces.
Following an outbreak of Fusarium oxysporum that affected coca plantations in Peru, and other crops planted in the area, the United States has proposed the use of the agent as a mycoherbicide in drug eradication. In 2000, a proposal was passed to use the agent as part of Plan Colombia. In response to concerns that use of the fungus could be perceived as biological warfare, the Clinton Administration "waived" this use of Fusarium. A subsequent law passed in 2006 has mandated the testing of mycoherbicide agents - either Fusarium oxysporum or Pleospora papaveracea - in field trials in U.S. territory. Use of Fusarium oxysporum for these tests has raised concerns because resistant coca from the previous outbreak has been widely cultivated, and the fungus has been implicated in the birth of 31 anencephalic children in the Rio Grande region of Texas in 1991, the loss of palm trees in Los Angeles, and eye infections from contact lens solutions. The alternative Pleospora papaveracea is less well-known; despite decades of study in the Soviet biowarfare lab in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, the relevant mycotoxins reportedly have not yet been isolated, named, or studied.
Quorn is the leading brand of mycoprotein food product in the UK and a leading brand elsewhere. Mycoprotein is the generic term for protein-rich foodstuffs made from processed edible fungus.
A shortage of protein-rich foods by the 1980s was predicted during the 1950s. In response to this, many research programmes were undertaken to utilise single-cell biomass as an animal feed. Contrary to the trend, Lord Rank instructed the Rank Hovis McDougall (RHM) Research Centre to investigate converting starch (the waste product of cereal manufacturing undertaken by RHM) into a protein-rich food for human consumption.
Following an extensive screening process, the filamentous fungus Fusarium venenatum, discovered in 1967, was isolated as the best candidate. In 1980, RHM was given permission to sell mycoprotein for human consumption after a ten-year evaluation programme.
What's in Those Nuggets? Meat Substitute Stirs Debate
Europeans have been eating Quorn -- Quorn nuggets, Quorn cutlets, Quorn patties -- for 16 years. And, yes, many say it tastes like chicken.
Now Quorn has come to America. Since January, Americans have bought half a million boxes in health food stores and supermarkets, at an average of $3.79 each. But Quorn has managed to infuriate competitors, fungus experts and a food safety group, who say Marlow Foods is not quite telling the truth about what's in those nuggets.
Bat deaths tied to warm temperatures: Expert says unseasonable weather waking animals up
Warmer-than-normal temperatures may be linked to the deaths of thousands of local bats, state wildlife pathologist Ward Stone said Tuesday.
Stone said he has received calls about bats flying around this week when they would typically be hibernating.
The unseasonable temperatures might be waking them up, he said.
“The bats are starving. They have burned up their energy supplies and they are ready to go get something to eat, I think. But there’s little to nothing available because it’s winter.”
“Strange weather has occurred in the last two years … it weakened [the bats] and put them into a starvation state. That has created this situation,” Stone theorized.
Bat deaths stymie researchers
Four long-abandoned mines in Hampden and Franklin counties may offer clues to a mysterious illness that has killed up to 90 percent of hibernating bats in some caves and mines in New York state and Vermont, prompting fears of some species' extinction.
At Hailes Cave in John Boyd Thacher State Park, Voorheesville, N.Y., near Albany, about 15,000 bats, primarily little brown bats, were counted hibernating in 2006. The number fell to 6,000 in 2007 and 900 to 1,500 this year, with many of the remaining bats showing symptoms of the illness.
However, a survey last week of four known bat hibernation sites in New Hampshire found no evidence of the infection among bats there, suggesting the outbreak may remain localized.
Unusual mortality events were detected at four hibernacula in New York between early March and late April 2007. Bat carcasses and parts of carcasses were estimated to number in the thousands within Hailes Cave where this years winter survey count of 7,296 live bats was 47% of the 2005 survey total. At Schoharie Cavern, 125 carcasses were found and the survey count of 478 live bats was 36% of the 2006 total. The number of carcass collected at Knox Cave (125) and Gages Cave (805) represent 20% and 83% respectively of the most recent winter counts. All of these caves are within a 12 km radius in Albany and Schoharie Counties, NY. With two exceptions that may be unrelated, there were no reported mortality events elsewhere in NY,VT or PA. It is clear that many bats died outside of the hibernacula, and that mortalities began no later than early February. Winter submissions from the Albany County region to the NYS Health Department (DOH) of Myotis spp. were 10 times higher than mean submission rates over the last decade. Anecdotally, the number of observations reported by the public of bats flying in a wide variety of winter conditions were the highest in the experience of Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and DOH staff. Carcasses collected both inside and outside of Hailes Cave were emaciated, although necropsy results by pathology units at DEC and USGS are not yet completed. Many carcasses at Hailes and Schoharie had been predated or scavenged. We do not yet know the exact species composition of the kills, or the cause or causes of these mortalities, and investigations are continuing. We will discuss potential explanations including disease, and the possible relationship to record warm temperatures that occurred during the early winter.
"This is afflicting the heart of our bat populations. And bats are long-lived species. They have very low reproductive rates of only one pup per year. So, with the prospects of 80-90 percent mortality, if in fact we continue to see this happen, it's going to take a very long time for our bat population to rebound.''
...biologists have discovered that the syndrome has infiltrated 11 New York caves, two Vermont sites, including Dorset and the Morris Cave in Danby, and one site in Massachusetts, according to the department. The syndrome has not been found anywhere else in the world...
...more than 300,000 bats could already be threatened by the affliction...
A significant loss of bats is chilling in itself to wildlife experts. But - like the mysterious mass die-offs around the country of bees that pollinate all sorts of vital fruits and vegetables - the bat deaths could have economic implications.
Bats feed on insects that can damage dozens of crops, including wheat and apples.
“Without large populations of bats, there would certainly be an impact on agriculture,” said Barbara French of Bat Conservation International of Austin, Texas.
The four most common bats in the region, including the little brown bat and the eastern pipistrelle, the northern long-eared bat and the Indiana bat, all are dying from the disease...
Originally posted by loam
reply to post by Cloak and Dagger
Right now, it appears to affect all North Eastern species. In other words, if you're a bat, it doesn't seem to matter what variety.
Concerning your conspiracy questions, who knows? It's hard to understand how a terrorist organization could go after our agriculture in this manner
and lesser know examples of sudden unexplained species collapse, like aspen trees, bighorn sheep, crows, and certain North American coastal marine mammals-- I'll write a thread about all of these shortly).
One oddity is there is a 'sudden collapse' disorder affecting camels in the Middle East (they are just dropping dead for some reason and no one seems to know why), so again, who knows?
Bat die-off is serious
Of the nearly 20 caves and mines that state Department of Environmental Conservation biologist Al Hicks is aware of the DEC surveying this winter, all but three had bats with white-nose syndrome in them, he said. That breaks down to about 400,000 bats affected.
“It’s almost everything we have,” Hicks said. “It’s about as bad as we can get.”
The mortality rate of bats with white-nose syndrome is 90 to 97 percent, Hicks said.
“What will be the ecological ramifications if we lose huge populations of bats in New York?” Kogut said. “We’ll find out soon enough.”