White-nose syndrome in bats is really sad. Sure, bats are rabies-carrying sky rats, but they’re kind of cool little critters. They were using sonar way before the military jumped on and hogged all the credit, and they’re expert aviators with way more control over their wings and flight patterns than either birds or insects. Birds and insects (and I suspect flying dinosaurs) have rigid wings, but bat wings are flexible, a nifty adaptation if you’re in to maximum maneuverability. Any way, white-nose syndrome, caused by a fungus from Europe, is really doing a number on American bats and shutting down the caves where they live to adventurers because the fungus is carried on people’s clothes.
I was on a cruise on in the Tennessee River Gorge a few months ago. It’s a beautiful part of the Ridge and Valley Province of the Appalachians with all sorts of great natural areas, perfect for swimming, hiking, or caving, but the guide on the cruise explained that a lot of the really great caves are closed to tourists these days because of this pernicious parasite. The fungus is all over the east and is moving west of the Mississippi, and as Discovery News reports, the research continues:
In the latest advance, the strongest evidence yet suggests that infection with a suspected fungus causes the deadly disease. What’s more, the fungus appears to have traveled to North America from Europe, most likely on a human shoe.