Share it! Science : Batty About Bats!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Batty About Bats!

bats white-nose syndrome banana cure
bat photo by PD-USGov [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Did you know this week was Bat Week? Often we associate bats with Halloween. I can agree that having one accidentally find its way into your house can be a little creepy and possibly disconcerting, but in general they are fascinating and important animals. There are many learning opportunities when you study bats. From their habits, bone structure, adaptations and roles in an ecosystem there are many science topics to explore.


You can also use these winged-mammals to teach about current events in science. Bats have been in the news the past few years due to the mysterious White-nose syndrome (WNS) that has plagued some important bat species and puzzled scientists. Since WNS emerged about 10 years ago, an estimated 5.7 million bats have died. As bats are an important part of many food webs continued mortality could have a huge impact on the structure of many natural ecosystems.

I recently came across a very exciting and hopeful story concerning a possible preventative for WNS.  Bats in Missouri were successfully treated with a bacterium that releases fungus killing Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and then released. The culprit of WNS is a fungus that grows in fuzzy white clumps on the bats face, hence the "white-nose" name. The most interesting part of this story is that the cure came from research in something completely different- bananas!

little brown bat white nose syndrome WNS
Little Brown Bat with WNS. By Marvin Moriarty/USFWS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers were studying ways to prolong the ripening process in fruits that are shipped long distances before they are consumed. They found that the bacterium R. rhodochrous delayed ripening, but also prevented fungus from developing. A light bulb went off for a graduate student working on this study, and researchers got to work on seeing if this could also aid in preventing bat death as a result of WNS. Although it is not a cure for WNS, it can help to prevent it from spreading or becoming worse. There are many ways you can become informed and prevent the spread of WNS too. Check out this website to find out more.

What else can we learn from bats? Check out the articles, resources, lesson ideas and book selections below to help you teach and learn about these fascinating animals.

Read more:

Some Book Suggestions (affiliate links): 

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