Bats and White-Nose Syndrome

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            My dad loves Facebook. He thinks it's really hip and cool to post on my pictures and mention me in status updates. At first, I hated it. Now what used to be embarrassing has become seemingly normal, and sometimes even convenient (like last week when I dropped my iPhone in the toilet and couldn't communicate).

            Recently my dad, who's incredibly interested in horticulture and the environment, shared a link from, about why we need to protect Pennsylvania bats now more than ever.

            In the past few years bat population has dropped rapidly due to a fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome. White-nose syndrome is caused by geomyces destructans, a fungus that causes hibernating bats to rouse earlier than they would normally, in effect, setting off starvation through constant activity.  The disease, since its discovery in 2006 and 2007, has cause more than 5.7 to 6.7 million bat deaths, a mortality rate over 90%, triggering incredible concern among biologists.

            As if the rapidly decreasing population of bats isn't of enough concern, Officials from the Pennsylvania Game Commission have withdrawn their proposal to protect the endangered species. Oil, gas, mining, and timber companies in Pennsylvania have opposed state protection of bats. According to industry, the protection measures would "crush" the current economy.

            According to bat specialist for the Center for Biological Diversity, Mollie Matteson, "The Game Commission bowed to vague claims by energy and timber industries that saving bats will hurt their bottom line. Meanwhile, farmers who depend on bats to keep insect crop pests in check are out of luck... And while mosquito-borne illnesses are on the rise, the commission's turning a blind eye to the vital public-health services bats provide by eating mosquitoes and other bothersome insects."

            Although bats may not be everyone's favorite animal, we need to remember the importance that all animals have on our ecological system. Not only will the extinction of these North American bats cause a biological disaster, it will create an economic burden among American farmers, as pest eating services by bats are estimated to be worth $292 million dollars a year.

            So what do you think? Is it important to protect bats against white-nose syndrome? Or is it better for nature to run its course? When, if ever, is it appropriate for science to interfere with nature? Is it fair to study live animals in a lab to help the species survive? Is extinction ever a positive thing? 

            Although my father and Facebook can be an incredibly humiliating combination, at times, I'm glad that we're all so easily able to share universal problems and concerns. Although I wouldn't normally look into a subject like this by myself, my dad's post reminded me of the importance in caring for the plants and animals that make up our environment. 

1 Comment

I think it is extremely important for the state to try and help preserve whatever bats are left. I researched a little bit about bats and the importance of them in society. And it turns out that they are extremely important to the agricultural field and our environment. Especially out here in state college, where agriculture is huge, bats are useful to eat bugs, a lot of the bugs they eat hurt the crops that are planted in the farmers fields. The bats are a reliable resource to keep crop production high, I did not know that and would have never thought of that if not for looking it up.

By the way, my mom sounds alot like your dad....always commenting on my facebook no matter what. Got to love the parents!

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