This story from the New York Times is disturbing--apparently bats are dying, in large numbers, and no one knows why. They're looking at a set of caves and mines in the northeast that are home to large bat colonies, and in all of these caves, something like ninety percent of the bats are dead or dying from a mysterious illness. (ScienceDaily also has an article, with mostly the same information.)
Symptoms of the bat disease include extreme weight loss (leaving them without sufficient fat reserves to make it through the cold weather), pneumonia, and a white fungus on their skin. Based on the fungus, bat researchers are calling it white-nose syndrome, but according to the NYT article, the fungus is believed to just be a symptom, not the cause of the sickness. From what I can tell from the reporting, it's the lack of fat reserves that's really killing them, although it sounds like they're disoriented too, flying during the day and during hibernation season.
This is potentially a big deal. The bat ecologists are saying that this will significantly impact the bat populations in the affected area, which stretches from New England to Indiana, and that it could easily spread to an even larger area. Bats don't reproduce quickly, and their reproductive processes are likely going to be impacted by this illness, and some of the researchers are talking about extinction of whole bat species. Even if it doesn't quite come to extinction, it's a dramatic reduction in species population, and the Science Daily article quotes someone saying that it could take hundreds of years for the population to regain full numbers.
The white-nose bat story has some resonance with the bee colony collapse story for a few reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that it's a massive and completely unexplained die-off. They're also both stories that potentially impact human lives, through agriculture. Bats aren't a managed component of agricultural production like bees are, but they eat a whole lot of insects, enough that they can have a significant effect on reducing insect-based crop loss.
First the bees, then the bats, and there's also word that frog populations worldwide are also being killed by a fungus. This is a little spooky.