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Deadly Disease Could Make Brown Bats Extinct In Less Than 20 Years

Deadly Disease Could Make Brown Bats Extinct In Less Than 20 Years

A scientific study released last week found that the brown bat could be completely extinct within 16 years if no solution is found for the deadly disease now attacking Northeastern populations.

One of New England’s most plentiful species, scientists discovered that the brown bat is falling victim to a condition known as ‘white-nose syndrome’. The named is used to refer to a white fungus that appears on the nose, wings, and other body parts of hibernating bats.

This fungal growth causes the bats to wake up from their winter hibernation, wasting precious fat stores in the process. Many end up leaving their warm caves and mines in search for food, only to find barren, snow-covered landscapes where they eventually die.

Scientists first discovered the disease in a cave outside Albany, N.Y. around four years ago. During that outbreak, it killed more than 90 percent of bats in some caves in just a few years (Boston Globe).

Winged Superhero

Aside from being a staple in creepy Halloween decorations, the bats amazing natural talents are often overlooked. The brown bat alone has ability to eat its body weight in insects every night, and is a natural predator of many garden and agricultural pests, and mosquitoes.

“We don’t pretend to be fortune tellers…but we’re very worried,” Winifred F. Frick, lead author of the paper, told the Boston Globe. “The loss of so many bats is basically a terrible experiment in how much these animals matter for insect control.”

Currently, the fungus has been found in seven hibernating bat species as far north as Ontario, as far south as Tennessee, and as far west as Oklahoma, and is still rapidly spreading (Boston Globe).

No one is really sure how the bats were first exposed to the fungus, but some scientists believe it may have been accidentally introduced into the New York cave by humans, who are not harmed by it. As a result, many of the nations caves and mines have been temporarily closed to human exploration.

Unless experts can find a way to slow the death rate, computer simulations indicate that the brown bat will not be able to sustain a regional population for longer than 16 years.

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Image: Little brown bat; close-up of nose with fungus, New York, Oct. 2008. Credit: Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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129 comments

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9:05AM PST on Dec 11, 2012

Thank you for sharing.

2:07AM PST on Feb 23, 2012

they better find a way to fix this

9:29AM PST on Feb 22, 2012

A tragedy.

9:14PM PST on Feb 18, 2012

this is horrible!

9:09PM PST on Feb 18, 2012

This makes me VERY sad. I hope that a cure is found soon!

5:36PM PDT on Jul 9, 2011

that fungus is invasive to right? if so, I hope no mold-aboos are going to fight for it's right to &*(&)%-up bats.

Its good to see when people care about family/genus/species of critters deamed "icky" or "ugly" "creepy". To bad some conservation programs only focus on other. like the Grey Wolf. Gorgours animal with a better singing voice than the fox, but as ecologicly unique as a bat. when wolves were gone coyotes "played wolf" the best they could.

what is going fill a bat's niche? nocturnal swallows?

1:34AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

Bats are so cute, calling them 'frightening' is so much character assassination!! We must save them.

6:41PM PDT on May 12, 2011

I hope everything is done to work out what is causing it and to cure it, if there are no bats the ecosystem will be irreversibly damaged.

3:03PM PDT on Aug 31, 2010

Every time we raise our eyes we see the species on our blue planet is unique in its kind is disappearing, killed by mankind should be the guardian of life on this planet

3:01PM PDT on Aug 31, 2010

Every time we raise our eyes we see the species on our blue planet is unique in its kind is disappearing, killed by mankind should be the guardian of life on this planet

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