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Posted Tue Mar 30 2010: from New Scientist:
A killer in the bat cave
CORPSE upon corpse they lie, a carpet of emaciated, fungus-ridden carcasses. Where once healthy animals hung in slumber from the cave roof, now there is a mass grave on the floor. It is a scene that is repeated throughout the eastern US, from Vermont to West Virginia. America's bats are in crisis, under threat from a mysterious killer. The first sign that something was up emerged in February 2006, when a caver photographed hibernating bats with white muzzles at Howe's Cave in Albany, New York state. Soon afterwards bats were observed behaving strangely - waking from hibernation early and in a state of serious starvation. Some even ventured out of their roosts during daylight to search for food. Inside the caverns, the floors were littered with bodies, most with the characteristic fuzzy white mould growing on their noses, ears and wings... The fungus has recently been identified as Geomyces destructans.... It is the prime suspect and the focus of an intense research effort. Even so, there remains the possibility that it is not actually the killer but just an opportunistic pathogen hitching a ride on the back of some other deadly foe.... "It terrifies everybody in the bat community," says Emma Teeling at University College Dublin, Ireland.... The most promising candidate kills the fungal spores on culture plates and does not harm healthy bats, but it does not seem to cure sick ones. "[It has] very strange results on the pathology of WNS bats," is all Barton will say.
[Read more stories about: white nose syndrome, contamination, predator depletion, ecosystem interrelationships]

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'Doc Michael says:
I'm sure ubiquitous pesticides wouldn't weaken bat immune systems. After all, they're birds.

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