Title

Altered Behavior in Bats Affected by White-Nose Syndrome

Date of Thesis

2011

Thesis Type

Masters Thesis

Department

Animal Behavior

First Advisor

DeeAnn Reeder

Abstract

WNS-affected bats did so over similar time frames as WNSunaffected bats. The behaviors of bats with WNS did not change as drastically as expected. Thereseems to be little to no effect on their ability to fly/forage until much later stages of the disease when they are likely near death. WNS-affected bats are grooming more which could be altering the way they use energy reserves during hibernation possibly leading tostarvation and eventually death. The decreased likelihood of arousals in response to external cues may be the result of spending more energy during previous and increasingly frequent arousals. While it is clear that WNS does result in changes in behavior whether these changes are directly in response to fungal skin infection or to some other component of the syndrome such as decreased energy availability or loss of homeostasis is unknown. bat behavior, white-nose syndrome, behavior, video surveillance, arousal patterns White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease of hibernating bats caused by the fungal pathogen Geomyces destructans. The fungus, which was first noted in 2006, invades bats wings and other exposed membranes, eventually resulting in death. Researchers have yet to understand many aspects of this disease, including basic etiology and epidemiology. There is also a lack of information on how fungal infection may change the behavior of healthy bats during hibernation or how changes in behavior may influence disease progression. Based upon the physiological changes that are known to occur in affected bats, and upon anecdotal observations of aberrant behavior in these bats, I hypothesized that WNS would significantly change the behavior of the little brown myotis (Myotis lucifugus). My research examined the behavior of hibernating bats during arousals from torpor. I compared WNS-affected and unaffected bats, in the field and incaptivity, using motion-sensitive infrared cameras. Flight maneuverability and echolocation were also tested between WNS-affected and unaffected bats during arousalsfrom hibernation to detect changes in the bats' ability to perform basic locomotion or potentially catch insect prey. Lastly, hibernating bats were artificially disturbed and theirarousal patterns were monitored to examine changes in the response to external stimuli between WNS-affected and unaffected bats.Bats with WNS groomed for longer periods of time after arousing from torpor, both in the field and in captivity. They also engaged in longer periods of any sort of activity during these arousals. There were no changes in acoustical signaling during flight tests and changes in flight maneuverability were only found in bats were seen staging" near the entrance of the mine which is itself a unique behavior exhibited by affected bats. At this point these bats were likely near death and could barely fly at all. In response toexternal stimuli bats with WNS were less likely to arouse than unaffected bats. However when they did arouse WNS-affected bats did so over similar time frames as WNSunaffected bats. The behaviors of bats with WNS did not change as drastically as expected. Thereseems to be little to no effect on their ability to fly/forage until much later stages of the disease when they are likely near death. WNS-affected bats are grooming more which could be altering the way they use energy reserves during hibernation possibly leading tostarvation and eventually death. The decreased likelihood of arousals in response to external cues may be the result of spending more energy during previous and increasingly frequent arousals. While it is clear that WNS does result in changes in behavior whetherthese changes are directly in response to fungal skin infection or to some other component of the syndrome such as decreased energy availability or loss of homeostasis is unknown."