A deadly fungus is on the loose and eating away the skins of newts and salamanders just like the frog population not many years ago. This has become a serious problem because the fungus, called as Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans has already wiped out wild populations of fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Its mode of operandi is infecting and eating away the animal’s skin, which they use to breath, eventually killing them in the end.
A more closely related fungus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been previously found to be capable of infecting some 520 amphibian species and also has sent some species of frogs and salamanders into extinction.
A dozen or more European and North American salamander and newt species have been found to be quite prone to the earlier fungus i.e. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. Scientists have tested more than 5000 amphibians from four continents, publishing their results today in the journal Science.
Karen Lips, one of the leading experts involved in the study, warned that the fungus would soon reach America. “If scientists and policy makers can work together on this, we have a rare opportunity to stop an epidemic from spreading around the globe with potentially deadly effect,” she said.
Along with her colleague Dr. Lips has already screened more 1,400 frogs, salamanders and newts from various ponds around North and South America. Although they haven’t found the fungus but they are of the view that it is not about if, rather when the fungus does reaches the Americas.
It is particularly concerning because Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans can be carried by Chinese fire belly newt and about 2.3 million of them were imported into the U.S., between 2001 and 2009, alone to be sold as pets.
It is important to note that the salamander population of the U.S. is the most diverse in the world, with many species already on the endangered list. The most potential effect of the decline in salamander population is the rapid climate change because they prey on animals that release more carbon into the atmosphere.