Bat-related biological breakthrough reminds us why we need the ESA
This week, in The FESEBJ Journal (published by the The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology), an article discusses a potentially age-defying discovery. According to a team of Texas researchers, two long-lived bat species (one from Florida, of course) suffered less aging and cell damage when exposed to chemicals and acute oxidative stress. The scientists concluded that the bat's very efficient maintenance of protein homeostasis explained the results. See Abstract. An article discussing the discovery called it a Fountain of Youth. See Science Daily.
But across North America, bats are suffering significantly from disease and habitat degradation. White Nose Syndrome is destroying hundreds of thousands of bats, and significant explosions in insect populations could result. See The Intelligencer, and CBS newstech. NPR recently reported on the potential spread of WNS to cave-dwelling bats across the country. Furthermore, of the 45 species of bats found in the continental United States, six are already federally-listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. These species include the: gray bat (Myotis grisescens), Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), Ozark big-eared bat (Corynorhinus (=Plecotus) townsendii ngens), Virginia big-eared bat (Corynorhinus (=Plecotus) townsendii virginianus), lesser long-nosed (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae), and Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis).
Whatever the flaws in the ESA (as often exposed through litigation discussed here at ESA blawg), the underlying premise of the statute remains unassailable. Conservation of species is a human necessity. And conservation can work, including for bat species, as proven by recent successes with the Pemba flying fox on the tropical island of Pemba, off Tanzania. See Science Daily. Still, we will face many challenges here in the United States with threats ranging from wind mill farms to development and habitat destruction. See Defenders of Wildlife. To remind us to take every effort at protecting species from extinction at the hands of those projects, we need the ESA.
Photo of the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), one of the species that was the subject of the newly published research on aging, from Florida's DeFuniak Springs Garden Club.