Echolocation is defined just as it sounds: energetic waves are sent by an organism to locate an object by interpreting the “echo” or return of that sound energy as it rebounds off an object. Toothed whales and dolphins use it in water; bats and a select few birds use it in air.
Echolocation is just one of the evolutionary traits that make bats remarkable. The fact that they are the only group of contemporary mammals able to fly is another. And, “able to fly” is an understatement. The flight-ability of these creatures is stunning (this video link is worth the seven minutes), with significantly more precision wing-control than birds.
If the awesome physique of these animals isn’t enough to convince you of their immense value, how about the critical roles they play in forest ecosystems, as insect controllers, and in agricultural pollination (saving farmers billions of dollars annually).
So, it’s distressing to learn that there is a lethal fungus attacking bat species across North America.
White-nosed Syndrome (WNS) is what happens when a bat is infected with Pseudogymnoascus destructans, a fungus originally from Europe. Bats in the late stages of this infection exhibit a white filamentous (mycorrhyzal) growth around the nose. WNS is often a death knell for entire colonies of bats hibernating together, and is threatening to cause extinction in a number of species.
WNS has been found in eastern Canada but remains south of the border (in Washington State) in the west. To find out more about what’s being done in Western Canada to keep this lethal disease at bay, go to the WCS Canada website.