Two years after the fungus that causes a fatal bat disease, white-nose syndrome, was first found in six Texas Panhandle counties, it seems to be spreading. Last year, the fungus was found in 10 counties, and this year, that count more than doubled, with the addition of 11 new counties earlier this month.
No cases of white-nose syndrome have yet been found in bats in Texas. In the interim, bat researchers like Texas Tech University’s Liam McGuire are investigating how the environmental differences between Texas and the eastern U.S. could affect bat populations’ susceptibility to the fungus.
McGuire, part of an international team working to examine the spread of the disease, is available to discuss his ongoing research.
Liam McGuire, assistant professor of biology,
- White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease that has killed millions of hibernating bats in eastern North America.
- The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has now been found across much of Texas. It is unclear what this means in terms of the disease and impacts on bat populations in Texas because, in these southern regions, winter is shorter and bats hibernate differently than bats in more northern regions.
- McGuire and colleagues are currently studying the winter behavior and physiology of Brazilian free-tailed bats to assess the risk to these overwintering populations. In another study, they are investigating how the fungus affects bats over the shorter winter duration that bats in the south experience.
- Another concern is that highly mobile species in Texas could spread the fungus rapidly across the state and into the West.