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No Bats in the Belfry

The Origin of White-Nose Syndrome in Little Brown Bats

Jennifer M. Dechaine
Department of Biological Sciences / Department of Science Education
Central Washington University
James E. Johnson
Department of Biological Sciences
Central Washington University


This interrupted case study investigates the geographic origin of white-nose syndrome (WNS) in little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus). WNS is a devastating fungal disease caused by the fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans (formerly known as Geomyces destructans), which has led to the death of over 5 million bats in the United States since 2006 and continues to spread. Specifically, the case uses the scientific process to dissect the Warnecke et al. (2012) study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggesting that the strain of P. destructans causing WNS in North America is an invasive fungal species from Europe. The case format focuses on scientific process skills, such as developing hypotheses, designing experiments, and drawing and interpreting quantitative data. The case also provides an opportunity to discuss coevolution and the evolutionary "arms race" that can occur when a host species evolves resistance to a disease and then the pathogen evolves new ways to infect the host. The case was developed for a non-majors undergraduate biology course but could also be used in any level of college biology or potentially advanced high school biology.


  • Discuss the coevolution of disease resistance and pathogenicity.
  • Describe the geographic origin of the fungus causing white-nose syndrome in bats.
  • Develop null and alternative hypotheses and testable predictions based on biological observations.
  • Design an appropriate experiment to test predictions.
  • Infer conclusions from quantitative data presented in figures.


Evolution; white-nose syndrome; Pseudogymnoascus destructans; Geomyces destructans; fungus; little brown bats; Myotis lucifugus; coevolution; ecology; pathogen; fungal disease; wildlife; invasive species

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division



Type Methods

Interrupted, Journal Article



Subject Headings

Biology (General) Ecology Evolutionary Biology Wildlife Management Zoology

Date Posted


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