Monday, October 31, 2011

Scientists think they know what is killing bats, but don't know if they will be able to stop it

Today is Halloween, so there are plenty of illustrations of flying bats around, but the real thing is becoming less common, and it's a matter for concern. Bat populations have declined by almost 90 percent in Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and Vermont as a result of white-nose syndrome, a survey of six species at 42 sites shows, Darryl Fears of The Washington Post reports. The culprit, a recent study in the journal Nature suggests, is an aggressive fungus called Geomyces destructans that burns holes in the membrane that controls wing flapping. (Photo of bats with syndrome by Alan Hicks, National Speleological Society)

Two bat species in the Mid-Atlantic states face within the next seven years, but some wildlife biologists are optimistic that with a known cause they may now be able to slow progression of the disease, Fears reports.

The fungus appeatrs to be spreading south and west, but scientists speculate the warmer temperatures could slow its growth, making it less lethal. This and the potential for a treatment is good news for agriculture, since insect-eating bats are a natural pesticide. A study released in April suggests farmers could pay tens of millions of dollars more for pesticides with the loss of so many bats. (Read more)

No comments: