After a series of incidents in Europe, scientists call for banning salamander imports in the US in order to prevent a deadly fungus from killing a large part of their population. It’s an imminent threat that could prove viciously harmful if allowed to pass from Asia, where it first originated, to North America.
Scientists from universities in San Francisco and California have shown regions around the United States where native salamanders could be potentially at risk should the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service do not impose a ban on imports, at least for the time being. A newly discovered pathogen may easily spread wipe them all in a matter of days.
Salamanders are a significant part of the ecosystem, crucial to ecology when climate change is one of its vital issues. They plough fertile soil, prey on harmful insects and are the beacon after which we can signal the health of their environment, which makes detecting pollution much more easily. Their disappearance could cause irreparable damage to the ecosystem and that makes the situation viable for an urgent fix.
The new plague spreading to salamanders is caused by Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (simply named Bsal), a yet mysterious species of fungi that has been threatening multiple areas around Europe. While still unknown, scientists point to a similar fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatitidis (more simply claled Bd), that, since 1999, has been responsible for wiping out over 200 species of amphibians around the world.
Bd, killed 40% of the amphibian species by hardening their skin and interfering with the electrolyte regulation and causing cardiac arrest after disrupting their trademark ability to adapt their body temperatures. Bsal is quite similar, but in the sense that it’s also much worse.
First detected in the Netherlands in 2013, Bsal caused a mass extinction of the colorful European fire salamanders, likely arriving there by pet trade from Asian regions. It’s an acute infection that horribly deems the salamanders into nothing but little masses of slime within three or four days.
The Asian salamanders are believed to be immune to the fungus, but Bsal poses a significant threat to the animals living in North America, which have been proven to be highly vulnerable to fungus in general. If allowed to touch the shores, the 325 species of salamanders found in North America are in grave peril.
Between the years of 2010 and 2014, Los Angeles alone imported 419,890 salamanders, either for zoos or personal pets, from which a vast majority of 418, 682 are vulnerable to Bsal infections. Scientists have called for a temporary ban on imports until a solution is found and caution that there might be a chance to stop the infection before it spreads.
Image source: natureworldnews.com