Evidence of 'sickness behaviour' in bats with white-nose syndrome

S.J. Bohn, J.M. Turner, L. Warnecke, C. Mayo, L.P. McGuire, V. Misra, T.K. Bollinger, C.K.R. Willis*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Many animals change behaviour in response to pathogenic infections. White-nose syndrome (WNS) is a fungal skin disease causing rapid declines of North American bats. Infection with Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes hibernating bats to arouse from torpor too often, potentially causing starvation. Mechanisms underlying increased arousals are not understood but fungal invasion of the wings could trigger thirst to relieve fluid loss or grooming to relieve skin irritation. Alternatively, bats might exhibit 'sickness behaviour', a suite of responses to infection that save energy. We quantified behaviours of healthy and experimentally inoculated little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) that could reflect active (i.e., drinking, grooming) or inactive (i.e., sickness behaviour) responses to infection. Infected bats groomed less and were less likely to visit their water dish compared to controls. These results are consistent with research suggesting that P. destructans causes sickness behaviour which could help bats compensate for energetic costs associated with infection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)981-1003
Number of pages23
JournalBehaviour: an international journal of behaviourial biology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • fungal pathogen
  • little brown bat
  • Myotis lucifugus
  • Pseudogymnoascus destructans
  • wildlife disease


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