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Cause of Bat Sickness Confirmed

The little brown bat is a critical link in the ecosystem

Scientists say they now know for sure what’s responsible for the death of millions of bats in North America. A fungus discovered in 2007 is responsible for white-nose syndrome, a devastating infectious disease that causes bats to wake up early from hibernation, fly around and then starve, freeze or die of dehydration. The disease was first seen on the east coast and has been spreading across the continent.

Quite apart from their value to themselves as amazing and beautiful creatures, bats are a critical link in the health of the ecosystem and in the production of food for humans. A study, The Economic Importance of Bats, warned that loss of bats in North America would have catastrophic consequences.

“Bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops,” said Paul Cryan, a U.S. Geological Survey research scientist and one of the study’s authors. “It is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests – these bats deserve help.”

There’s more information on the latest discovery at Scientific American.

And more about the value and importance of bats here on Zoe.