Scientists have identified a fungus as the cause of the rapidly spreading and deadly white nose syndrome that has killed bats across at least 16 states and four Canadian provinces since first being discovered in a New York cave in 2006.
The research, led by the U.S. Geological Survey, was published in Nature.
Knowing the cause of the disease won't stop it from spreading, or killing. About 80% of bats in infected caves have died in the Northeast, where white noes syndrome has so far done the most damage.
In New York, several bat species have vanished completely from caves and mines where they were once abundant; and the little brown bat, once the most common species in the Northeast, could disappear from the region.
At least 9 species diagnosed with white nose syndrome are endangered bats at risk of extinction from the disease. Already, that die-off has resulted in 700 fewer tons of insects consumed by the insectivorous bats, according to one study. That, in turn, could spur more farmers to use more toxic pesticides, since several bat species eat agricultural pests.
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