Shifting effects of host physiological condition following pathogen establishment

Kate E. Langwig, A. Marm Kilpatrick, Macy J. Kailing, Nichole A. Laggan, J. Paul White, Heather M. Kaarakka, Jennifer A. Redell, John E. Depue, Katy L. Parise, Jeffrey T. Foster, Joseph R. Hoyt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding host persistence with emerging pathogens is essential for conserving populations. Hosts may initially survive pathogen invasions through pre-adaptive mechanisms. However, whether pre-adaptive traits are directionally selected to increase in frequency depends on the heritability and environmental dependence of the trait and the costs of trait maintenance. Body condition is likely an important pre-adaptive mechanism aiding in host survival, although can be seasonally variable in wildlife hosts. We used data collected over 7 years on bat body mass, infection and survival to determine the role of host body condition during the invasion and establishment of the emerging disease, white-nose syndrome. We found that when the pathogen first invaded, bats with higher body mass were more likely to survive, but this effect dissipated following the initial epizootic. We also found that heavier bats lost more weight overwinter, but fat loss depended on infection severity. Lastly, we found mixed support that bat mass increased in the population after pathogen arrival; high annual plasticity in individual bat masses may have reduced the potential for directional selection. Overall, our results suggest that some factors that contribute to host survival during pathogen invasion may diminish over time and are potentially replaced by other host adaptations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20220574
JournalBiology Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023


  • Pseudogymnoascus destructans
  • body mass
  • emerging infectious disease
  • population impacts
  • white-nose syndrome
  • wildlife disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


Dive into the research topics of 'Shifting effects of host physiological condition following pathogen establishment'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this