World's salamanders at risk from flesh-eating fungus

World's Salamanders at Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus
World's Salamanders at Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

A skin-eating fungus is now a severe threat to salamander populations in Europe, according to a new study.

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bs, is deadly to almost all salamanders but appears to spare other amphibians. And yes, it's BS.

Researchers think the fungus originated with salamander hosts somewhere in Asia. Their evidence suggests it's been around for some 30 million years and only started to spread as humans moved salamanders around the globe.

One co-author who talked to the BBC points to the amphibian import trade - aka salamanders as pets - saying those millions of salamanders brought to the U.S. and Europe from Asia pose a significant risk of spreading the fungus.

Fire salamanders in the Netherlands, for example, have been devastated - Bs cut their population down to four percent of what it was four years ago.

The diverse Salamander species in the U.S. are so far uninfected, but the study authors warn if the fungus catches on and spreads it could be uncontrollable.

"The fact that Bs can be spread by multiple species of carriers puts it among 'the most worrisome' kinds of pathogens," one ecologist told National Geographic. "Such disease-causing agents are the most likely to cause extinctions."

Another told the New York Times Bs poses the risk of a domino effect in the larger environment. "We need to think about biosecurity not just in terms of humans and food that we eat and crops that we grow. We need to think about functioning ecosystems."

The results of this study have been published in the journal Science.

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