A mysterious syndrome is wiping out colonies of hibernating bats and baffling biologists, the New York Times reports. Experts don't know what causes the "white nose syndrome" or how it spreads, but they warn that bat populations in the Northeast are being devastated. Field researchers report bats flying out of caves in the middle of the day and dying in the snow. Some 90% of hibernating bats in four New York caves studied have died.
The dead bats are found with their winter reserves of fat used up and dusted with a white fungus. "This may be the most serious threat to North American bats we’ve experienced in recorded history," one expert warned. Biologists, who are working hard to figure out what is killing the bats, say that the die-off will lead to burgeoning insect populations this spring. (Read more bats stories.)