Apparently salamanders have an Achilles’ heel: fungus. It’s called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or, more shortly, Bsal. Bsal can kill a vast majority of salamander species.
The Bsal has caused numerous deaths in salamander populations across Western Europe and Asia. Scientists are now worried that this phenomenon might occur in North America. The salamander population in this region is very high and salamander imports can drive the species extinct.
There are many voices that urge US officials to ban salamander imports in order to prevent such a disaster. Vance T. Vredenburg finds himself among the people who discourage such imports and expresses concern about the lack of implication. The biologist from San Francisco State University is intrigued as to why there are no government agencies that can take care of this threat.
He and his colleagues discovered that humans initially carried the initial virus called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis and they have spread it across the world, infecting many extinct species.
The virus that affects salamanders was discovered in 2013 by scientists in the Netherlands. They have also detected the virus’ presence in Belgium and the United Kingdom.
There are two types of salamanders that account for around 90 percent of pet salamanders imported in North America: the Cynops and Paramesotriton. Researchers have found out that these species can carry the fungus without getting sick.
This is why Europe and North America are in danger: the salamanders in these regions did not develop resistance to this disease. According to Dr. Vredenburg, there are three regions that are susceptible to this infection: the highlands of central Mexico, the Southeast and the Pacific Northwest area along with Sierra Nevada.
A major outbreak would not be detrimental only to the salamander pet trade, but to the ecosystem as well. Salamanders are known to have great importance in the carbon cycle and in food chains. They kill insects and are feasted upon by larger animals. The also eat invertebrates, lowering the carbon level in the atmosphere.
While authorities react slowly or come up with excuses not to intervene, this situation should not be ignore under any circumstance. Driving a species extinct by accident is already a huge mistake, but now we know that salamanders are in danger and we must protect them.
In the end, it is a question of duty. Are we going to act and preserve the species? Or are we going to be ignorant and witness how we destroyed yet another?
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