Higher fat stores contribute to persistence of little brown bat populations with white-nose syndrome

Tina L. Cheng, Alexander Gerson, Marianne Moore, Jonathan D. Reichard, Joely DeSimone, Craig K.R. Willis, Winifred F. Frick, Auston Marm Kilpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The persistence of populations declining from novel stressors depends, in part, on their ability to respond by trait change via evolution or plasticity. White-nose syndrome (WNS) has caused rapid declines in several North America bat species by disrupting hibernation behaviour, leading to body fat depletion and starvation. However, some populations of Myotis lucifugus now persist with WNS by unknown mechanisms. We examined whether persistence of M. lucifigus with WNS could be explained by increased body fat in early winter, which would allow bats to tolerate the increased energetic costs associated with WNS. We also investigated whether bats were escaping infection or resistant to infection as an alternative mechanism explaining persistence. We measured body fat in early and late winter during initial WNS invasion and 8 years later at six sites where bats are now persisting. We also measured infection prevalence and intensity in persisting populations. Infection prevalence was not significantly lower than observed in declining populations. However, at two sites, infection loads were lower than observed in declining populations. Body fat in early winter was significantly higher in four of the six persisting populations than during WNS invasion. Physiological models of energy use indicated that these higher fat stores could reduce WNS mortality by 58%–70%. These results suggest that differences in fat storage and infection dynamics have reduced the impacts of WNS in many populations. Increases in body fat provide a potential mechanism for management intervention to help conserve bat populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

Fingerprint

bat
fat
Chiroptera
persistence
body fat
lipids
infection
winter
hibernation
white-nose syndrome
energy use
starvation
plasticity
energetics
mortality
cost
energy

Keywords

  • emerging infectious disease
  • evolution
  • plasticity
  • resistance
  • tolerance
  • trait change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology

Cite this

Higher fat stores contribute to persistence of little brown bat populations with white-nose syndrome. / Cheng, Tina L.; Gerson, Alexander; Moore, Marianne; Reichard, Jonathan D.; DeSimone, Joely; Willis, Craig K.R.; Frick, Winifred F.; Kilpatrick, Auston Marm.

In: Journal of Animal Ecology, 01.01.2019.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Cheng, Tina L. ; Gerson, Alexander ; Moore, Marianne ; Reichard, Jonathan D. ; DeSimone, Joely ; Willis, Craig K.R. ; Frick, Winifred F. ; Kilpatrick, Auston Marm. / Higher fat stores contribute to persistence of little brown bat populations with white-nose syndrome. In: Journal of Animal Ecology. 2019.
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