Foreign Fungus Threatens U.S. Salamanders: Study

Foreign Fungus Threatens U.S. Salamanders: Study

THURSDAY, July 30, 2015 (HealthDay News) — North American salamanders could be decimated by a deadly fungus unless a ban is placed on imported salamanders that can carry the fungus, researchers report.

Salamanders are popular pets, and they’re shipped worldwide. However, there are concerns that a certain fungus — nicknamed “Bsal” — could be carried by salamanders that come from Asia, according to an article published July 30 in the journal Science.

Areas in North America that are at highest risk for salamander declines and extinctions because of the fungus include the southeastern United States (particularly the southern Appalachian Mountain range and its southern neighboring region), the Pacific Northwest and the Sierra Nevada, along with the central highlands of Mexico, researchers said.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services should enact an immediate ban on live salamander imports to the United States until there is a plan in place to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus, said study author Vance Vredenburg, a biologist at San Francisco State University.

Such a ban has the support of many scientists, but the U.S. government has been slow to act, the researchers said.

“This is an imminent threat, and a place where policy could have a very positive effect. “We actually have a decent chance of preventing a major catastrophe,” Vredenburg said in a university news release.

He noted that salamanders play a crucial role in many North American ecosystems.

“They are very important predators of insects, but also an important part of the food chain,” said Vredenburg.

The Bsal fungus caused a 96 percent death rate among European salamander species that it infected. It’s also been shown to be deadly to American salamander species exposed to the fungus in the lab, the researchers cautioned.

More information

The San Diego Zoo has more about salamanders.