Bat-killing culprit identified by scientists
First identified in 2005, white-nose syndrome has killed over a million bats in the US, pushing once common species to the edge of collapse and imperiling already-endangered species. Striking when bats hibernate, the disease leaves a white dust on the bat's muzzle, causing them to starve to death. Long believed to be caused by a fungus in the genus Geomyces, researchers publishing in Nature have confirmed that the disease is produced by the species, Geomyces destructans.
"By identifying what causes white-nose syndrome, this study will greatly enhance the ability of decision makers to develop management strategies to preserve vulnerable bat populations and the ecosystem services that they provide in the U.S. and Canada," said Anne Kinsinger, Associate Director of Ecosystems with the US Geological Survey (USGS).
To confirm that Geomyces destructans was the fungal species in questions, researchers tested the species on bats in a laboratory. They also found that the disease is not airborne, but likely infects other bats when they fly in close formation brushing against one-another.
White-nose syndrome has been recorded in 16 states and 4 Canadian provinces, and it is still spreading. In the US's Northeast, where the disease was first discovered, 80 percent of bats have died.
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