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US bats fall victim to mystery illness

USA
A mystery illness that has scientists baffled is wiping out tens of thousands of bats across the north-east of the US. White nose syndrome, as it is known, cannot even be categorised as a disease. The syndrome leaves small, white, fungal spots around the nose and mouth of the tiny nocturnal animals. "Did it spread? I don't know, because we don't know what it is." The bats have been woken prematurely from their winter hibernation and, with their fat reserves seriously depleted, their natural impulse is to forage for food. The reality of the harsh New England winter is that there are no insects to eat so they starve to death. One possible link under serious consideration is the equally mysterious catastrophe that has affected the honeybee population. "I have no doubt we will figure it out. But even once we figure it out, I suspect we'll never be able to do anything about it." Hopefully the bats themselves will begin to develop immunity, although nobody knows how far the syndrome will go. The syndrome is yet another environmental alarm bell.

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