This little critter is in great peril if the US does not take action.
They are a vital part of the food chain in many forests of our nation, but recently, they face a new threat. The fungal threat and the Salamanders of the US haven’t met yet, but it is very possible that they will soon do, and recent studies show the results as catastrophic.
A few years ago, in the Netherlands, in a nature preserve, salamanders started dying. As it turned out, these amphibians were not affect by the common Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, but by a completely new chytrid. When An Martel, a veterinarian seeking answers in Belgium’s Ghent University, started scanning the DNA of the fungi on the skin of the dead salamanders, she realized that it was a whole new problem. Seeing as in her experiments, this particular type of fungus didn’t spread so quickly to other amphibians, she called it Bsal, short for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, and also wrote a paper which was published last October in Science.
So, the logical conclusion one would draw is that this fungus is coming to the US. And it probably is, as a new study which advocates for the ban of salamander pet trade tries to point out.
Let’s back up a little bit.
Bd, or Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, is an extremely dangerous fungal infection that wiped out close to 200 species of amphibians. This includes mainly a lot of species of frogs. If you did not know, amphibians breathe directly through the skin. That means that they absorb air and water through the pores in their skin. But with fungi all over, it’s easy to see why they would die off.
It was the worst disease epidemic ever recorded among animals.
And, now, scientists are preparing to battle Bsal having the previous experience of losing the battle against Bd. This was due to the fact that after 1998 when the disease started killing, research was slow to come, and the Fish and Wildlife Service of the U.S. spent too much time actually searching for the disease. Now, they know it exists and will be ready if and when it comes. But that would simply be trying to blow out a wildfire.
The study researchers, led by grad student Tiffany Yap, say that if the import of Salamanders from Asia as pets is not stopped, they may easily find their way to Salamanders from the US forests. And from there, the disease would spread in a spiral effect.
50% of the world’s Salamanders live in Asia. These are most already infected with Bsal, but have evolved to resist the deadly fungus. The US and European ones do not have this advantage. Salamanders dying would also mean more insects in forests, which would eat more dead organic material, which would eventually release much more CO2 in the atmosphere.
Image source: techtimes.com