Body mass and hibernation microclimate may predict bat susceptibility to white-nose syndrome

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John Wiley and Sons, Ltd
(c) The author/s CC BY
In multihost disease systems, differences in mortality between species may reflect variation in host physiology, morphology, and behavior. In systems where the pathogen can persist in the environment, microclimate conditions, and the adaptation of the host to these conditions, may also impact mortality. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging disease of hibernating bats caused by an environmentally persistent fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans. We assessed the effects of body mass, torpid metabolic rate, evaporative water loss, and hibernaculum temperature and water vapor deficit on predicted overwinter survival of bats infected by P. destructans. We used a hibernation energetics model in an individual-based model framework to predict the probability of survival of nine bat species at eight sampling sites across North America. The model predicts time until fat exhaustion as a function of species-specific host characteristics, hibernaculum microclimate, and fungal growth. We fit a linear model to determine relationships with each variable and predicted survival and semipartial correlation coefficients to determine the major drivers in variation in bat survival. We found host body mass and hibernaculum water vapor deficit explained over half of the variation in survival with WNS across species. As previous work on the interplay between host and pathogen physiology and the environment has focused on species with narrow microclimate preferences, our view on this relationship is limited. Our results highlight some key predictors of interspecific survival among western bat species and provide a framework to assess impacts of WNS as the fungus continues to spread into western North America.
bats, disease, evaporative water loss, hibernation energetics, microclimate, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, white&#8208, nose syndrome
ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 2021, 11 (1), pp. 506 - 515