Staff Editorial

Bat fungus spreads, threatens extinction

Between talks about extending Bush-era tax cuts and hoping Case Keenum can make it to the field next week, most students are completely unaware that a horrible ecological disaster is happening all across the country.

No, it’s not the latest hurricane — and it has nothing to do with Kanye coming back to the MTV awards. We’re worried about the bats.

In case you didn’t know (and let’s face it, you probably did not) bats all across the eastern part of the nation are succumbing left and right to a fungal infection dubbed white-nose syndrome. The fungus grows on bats’ exposed skin during their daytime hibernation period and eventually kills them. Entire colonies of bats are dying off — they have no immunity to the disease, aside from a few bats that are naturally resilient. In some cases, bat populations are reduced to less than 3 percent of what they once were.

Bats, while certainly not the cuddliest creatures, perform an important role in nature; every night each bat eats at least one-third of its body weight in insects. Considering that some bat colonies (like the one located in Bracken Cave in San Antonio) can house upwards of 20 million bats, this infection is no laughing matter.

As of right now the fungus has not spread to Texas, but it is nowhere near being contained. The infection started in a New York cave in 2006 and since then has crossed 14 state borders, killing bats as far away as Tennessee and Wyoming — and recently some bat dwellings in Oklahoma have been found housing the fungus as well.

Considering that scientists do not even know exactly how the fungus kills the bats, this is definitely no laughing matter. In fact, some scientific models predict complete extinction of some species of North American bats.

There is some hope building, though. Less than a week ago, scientists concluded that a few types of anti-fungal drugs already commercially available fight off the infection quite well. The problem is there is no viable way to effectively deliver the drugs.

Hopefully we can take our minds off of awards shows and tropical storms long enough to fight something we can do something about, before it’s too late.

Leave a Comment