Minnesota and the Case of the Disappearing Fungus

An underground pool inside Minnesota's Mystery Cave.

An underground pool inside Minnesota’s Mystery Cave. Photo by jnaithani/flickr

Minnesota bats tested positive for P. Destructans, the fungus that causes White-nose Syndrome, one year, and not the next.

During an interview with Minnesota Public Radio, Gerda Nordquist, a Mammalogist with the Minnesota Biological Survey at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, explained the strange situation at Minnesota’s two major bat hibernaculums.

A number of samples from 2012 taken in Minnesota’s Soudan Underground and a sample taken in 2013 at Mystery Cave tested positive for the fungus. Yet, despite increased sampling at both Soudan Underground Mine and Mystery Cave, as well as additional sampling at adjacent hibernaculua, no trace of P. Destructans was found in 2014.

Although no one is sure why no samples were positive for the fungus in 2014, it is suspected that it may still be at such low levels that it was sheer luck that the researchers happened to sample an infected bat at all.

Additionally there is some speculation that the way the bats roost in Minnesota, primarily alone instead of the large clusters common in the eastern United States, might be causing the disease to advance at a slower rate or have less of an impact on the bats.

Researchers will be out again in February to once again take samples and will be anxiously waiting the results.

Mystery Cave, located in southeastern Minnesota, has about 2,300 bats, while Soudan Underground Mine, in the northeastern part of the state, is home to between 10,000 and 15,000 bats.

The state of white-nose syndrome in Minnesota bats [Minnesota Public Radio]

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