PacSci-Doku: “Deadly Disease”

By Dennis Schatz – Senior Advisor

Do you Sudoku? It’s one of the hottest number games around! Well, here’s a twist we think you’ll love. We call it PacSci-Doku. Can you guess why? Here’s how it works. Instead of filling in the blanks with numbers, we use letters. Hidden in one of the columns or rows is the answer to a science question. You’ll find information about the answer on the answer tab below. The question in this edition is:

What disease has decimated the bat population in much of the United States?

To find the answer, complete this PacSci-Doku using the following nine letters:

E  e  I  o  W  n  H  s  T

PacSci-Doku: Deadly Disease

Puzzle Difficulty: Medium

The Answer
PacSci-Doku: Deadly Disease

What disease has decimated the bat population in much of the United States?

The answer: White-Nose

White-Nose Syndrome is caused by an invasive fungus that has infected most population of bats in the Eastern United States — killing more than 5.7 million bats since 2006. The disease gets its name from the white fungal growth that covers the nose of the infected bats. Caves with infected bats often see mortality rates of 90%, and the fungus can survive in the cave even without the bats being present – often infecting bats when they come back to hibernate for the winter.

It is not well known how the fungus kills, but scientists do know that the infected bats do not hibernate properly – waking up every 3 to 4 days rather than the usual 10 to 20 days. Without any insects to eat during winter, many of the bats die of starvation.

Many people are happy not to encounter bats, so may not consider this epidemic with concern. But bats are a major predator of insects, with each bat eating 3,000 to 6,000 mosquitoes, beetles or moths every night. They are a crucial component of a healthy ecosystem.

See what the White Nose Syndrome looks like and learn more about the disease and its impact.