“No more cuddling — at least during hibernation.”
That is the advice scientists would like to give bats at risk for contracting white-nose syndrome.
Science News details recent findings from a study led by biologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz —
Certain species pack into tight, dense clusters during hibernation. Whether there are 30 bats or 3,000 in a given cave or mine, some species will crowd together cheek by jowl, shoulder to shoulder. These bats face the gravest risk of infection, the researchers report online July 3 in Ecology Letters. Whether their wintering colony is large or small, the infection rate is the same — massive.
For bats that prefer to leave a little wiggle room between themselves and hibernating neighbors, white nose risk is lower — and diminishes as a colony’s size shrinks
To many scientists surprise, some species of bats are altering their hibernating behavior in response to the disease. As many as 75% of little brown bats, which usually hibernate in densely-packed groups, are now roosting individually.
Scientists believe that this change in behavior may be the thing that keeps the little brown bat from going extinct.
Let’s hope so.