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Abstract

The introduction of the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd) to North America has stimulated research on the poorly known mycology of caves. It is possible that the introduction of Pd reduces the diversity of fungi associated with bats hibernating in caves. To test this hypothesis we examined the fungal assemblages associated with hibernating bats (Myotis spp.) pre- and post- white-nose syndrome (WNS) infection in eastern Canada using culture-dependent methods. We found the mean number of fungal taxa isolated from bats/hibernaculum was not significantly different between pre-infection (29.6 ± 6.1SD) and post-infection with WNS (32.4 ± 4.3). Although the number of fungal taxa per bat was significantly higher on Myotis lucifugus vs. M. septentrionalis, evidence suggests that this is a reflection of environmental features of individual hibernacula, rather than any biological difference between bat species. The composition and number of the most common and widespread fungal taxa on hibernating Myotis spp. did not change with the introduction of Pd to hibernacula. We found no evidence to suggest that Pd interacts with other fungi on the external surface of bats in hibernacula, even among fungal species of the same genus. However, our data do suggest that environmental characteristics of individual caves can have a significant influence on the fungal assemblages cultured from hibernating bats at specific hibernacula. Following the mortality of thousands of WNS-infected Myotis spp. in one hibernacula, we found that those fungal taxa growing on dead bats were cultured with increased frequency from live bats. This suggests that fungal assemblages on live bats may be sensitive to sporadic introductions of new fungal substrates to hibernacula.

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.5038/1827-806X.45.1.1946

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