Life Sciences


Amy Russell


White-nose syndrome (WNS) has become a serious disease affecting hibernating bats in North America. Caused by the fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), this disease causes cutaneous lesions that disrupt aspects of physiological regulation controlled primarily through the wings. The extent to which this disease has spread and affected bats may exceed any previous known mortality event in mammals. Since its discovery in 2006, WNS has spread to 28 states and 5 Canadian provinces and affects seven hibernating species, with an estimate of over six million bats killed. In order to understand pathogen dispersal, information about host connectivity must be known. Data on the individual movements and contact rates of bats are hard to collect, and therefore studies of population structure and gene flow have been used as a proxy for pathogen dispersal. The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) is one of the most common and widely distributed bats in North America. As one of the important dispersers of Pd, understanding their connectivity is important in estimating the spread of WNS across North America. Much has been learned about little brown bats in North America since the emergence of WNS, however there is little known about M. lucifugus in Alaska. This current lack of knowledge represents a serious obstacle to its conservation in the face of WNS. Our study focuses on patterns of diversity and population structure of M. lucifugus in Alaska. Using microsatellite genotypes, we estimated genetic diversity parameters and determined the number of distinct genetic clusters present within little brown bats sampled from Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.