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Environment, host, and fungal traits predict continental-scale white-nose syndrome in bats

June 23, 2016

White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease killing bats in eastern North America, but disease is not seen in European bats and is less severe in some North American species. We show that how bats use energy during hibernation and fungal growth rates under different environmental conditions can explain how some bats are able to survive winter with infection and others are not. Our study shows how simple but nonlinear interactions between fungal growth and bat energetics result in decreased survival times at more humid hibernation sites; however, differences between species such as body size and metabolic rates determine the impact of fungal infection on bat survival, allowing European bat species to survive, whereas North American species can experience dramatic decline.