Up to 6.7 million bats dead from fungus: US

January 17, 2012
An undated photo courtesy of the US Fish & Wildlife Service shows the little brown bat hanging at Greeley Mine in Stockbridge, Vermont affected by the white-nose syndrome. Between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats have died in North America due to a fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the disease first appeared in 2006, US authorities said.

Between 5.7 and 6.7 million bats have died in North America due to a fungus known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) since the disease first appeared in 2006, US authorities said on Tuesday.

The count is a vast increase over the one million bats believed dead according to the last estimate in 2009, and in some areas has meant that nearly all of the bat population is gone, wildlife expert Jeremy Coleman told AFP.

"In states like New York and Vermont and southern Ontario, we anticipate that the overall population is probably impacted on the order of 90-plus percent," said Coleman, national white-nose syndrome coordinator at the Fish and Wildlife Service.

The figures were compiled using data from state biologists and mathematical models to project losses across geographical areas where the disease is known to have spread.

"This startling new information illustrates the severity of the threat that white-nose syndrome poses for bats, as well as the scope of the problem facing our nation," said Director Dan Ashe.

"Bats provide tremendous value to the US economy as natural pest control for American farms and forests every year, while playing an essential role in helping to control insects that can spread disease to people."

Bats are in important natural pesticide worth at least 3.7 billion dollars per year to farmers, a recent study calculated.

The first known outbreak of WNS has been traced to a colony of bats in upstate New York, and has spread 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) across the United States and into Canada.

It has now been documented in 16 states and four Canadian provinces.

The syndrome is particularly lethal for winter colonies of species that hibernate, including little , northern long-eared bats and the endangered Indiana bat, according to the United States Geological Survey.

A study published late last year confirmed that the disease is caused by a called Geomyces destructans, but experts are stumped as to how to stop it.

Explore further: Newly identified fungus implicated in white-nose syndrome in bats

Related Stories

Interim protections sought for little brown bats

December 20, 2010

Scientists and conservation groups filed a formal request today asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine if little brown bats, once the most common bat species in the Northeast, need protection under the Endangered ...

Culling can't control deadly bat disease

February 14, 2011

Culling will not stop the spread of a deadly fungus that is threatening to wipe out hibernating bats in North America, according to a new mathematical model.

Recommended for you

Fish that have their own fish finders

August 4, 2015

The more than 200 species in the family Mormyridae communicate with one another in a way completely alien to our species: by means of electric discharges generated by an organ in their tails.

Volcanic bacteria take minimalist approach to survival

August 4, 2015

New research by scientists at the University of Otago and GNS Science is helping to solve the puzzle of how bacteria are able to live in nutrient-starved environments. It is well-established that the majority of bacteria ...

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Telekinetic
1 / 5 (1) Jan 17, 2012
Heartbreaking that there isn't something that can be done. I hope the biochemists stumble on an anti-fungal that could be sprayed where they congregate. They eat the mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus. We can expect more human diseases when the bat populations dwindle.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.