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Australia's heat may be here to stay. Snuggly blanket bats highlight flying mammals' plight. Over two days in November, record-breaking heat in Australia's north wiped out almost one-third of the nation's spectacled flying foxes, according to researchers.
The animals, also known as spectacled fruit bats, were unable to survive in temperatures which exceeded 42C. In the city of Cairns, locals saw bats toppling from trees into backyards, swimming pools and other locations. Wildlife rescuers found surviving animals clumped together, usually on branches closer to the ground. Last week, researchers from Western Sydney University finalised their conclusion that about 23, spectacled flying foxes died in the event on 26 and 27 November. That tally was reached through counting by wildlife volunteers who visited seven flying fox camps following the heatwave.
Lead researcher Dr Justin Welbergen, an ecologist, believes the "biblical scale" of deaths could be even higher - as many as 30, - because some settlements had not been counted. Australia had only an estimated 75, spectacled flying foxes before November, according to government-backed statistics.
Hundreds of bats die in Sydney weather Snuggly blanket bats highlight flying mammals' plight. The spectacled flying fox - so named for light-coloured fur around its eyes - can also be found in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Solomon Islands.
In Australia, the species is only found in a small rainforest region of northern Queensland, where it helps to pollinate native trees. Dr Welbergen says about 10, bats of another species - black flying foxes - succumbed to the heat during the same two-day period. Flying foxes often experience fatal heat stress when temperatures eclipse 42C, scientists say. During November's heatwave, Cairns recorded its highest-ever temperature of Flying foxes are no more sensitive to extreme heat than some other species, experts say.