Scientists Identify Fungus That Has Killed 1M Bats

Geomyces destructans has wipe out over 90% of some bat species
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 27, 2011 4:43 AM CDT
Scientists Identify Fungus That Has Killed 1M Bats
This 2010 photo provided by the US Geological Survey shows a hibernating little brown bat in Pennsylvania, with the white-muzzle typical of white-nose syndrome.    (AP Photo/U.S. Geological Survey, Paul Cryan)

Five years after a bat-killing plague was discovered in the eastern United States, and three years after a fungus was linked to that plague, scientists have finally identified the pathogen and confirmed it is indeed responsible for the deaths, reports Reuters. The deadly white fungus Geomyces destructans is responsible for white-nose syndrome, which has killed about 1 million bats since 2006, wiping out more than 90% of some species of cave-dwelling bats.

Geomyces destructans hits bats while they hibernate, causing them to use their limited body fat reserves and exhibit strange behavior, such as flying deep into caves where they cannot find insects to eat or outside during the day. As the fungus spreads westward, wildlife experts worry about the potential effects the loss of insect-eating bat populations might have, with one study estimating the flying mammal is worth $3.7 billion a year. (More bats stories.)

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