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Open Access Highly Accessed Opinion

Wing pathology of white-nose syndrome in bats suggests life-threatening disruption of physiology

Paul M Cryan1, Carol Uphoff Meteyer2*, Justin G Boyles3 and David S Blehert2

Author affiliations

1 United States Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, CO 80526, USA

2 United States Geological Survey, National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI 53711, USA

3 University of Pretoria, Department of Zoology and Entomology, Pretoria 0002, South Africa

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Citation and License

BMC Biology 2010, 8:135  doi:10.1186/1741-7007-8-135

Published: 11 November 2010

Abstract

White-nose syndrome (WNS) is causing unprecedented declines in several species of North American bats. The characteristic lesions of WNS are caused by the fungus Geomyces destructans, which erodes and replaces the living skin of bats while they hibernate. It is unknown how this infection kills the bats. We review here the unique physiological importance of wings to hibernating bats in relation to the damage caused by G. destructans and propose that mortality is caused by catastrophic disruption of wing-dependent physiological functions. Mechanisms of disease associated with G. destructans seem specific to hibernating bats and are most analogous to disease caused by chytrid fungus in amphibians.