A new fungus has been discovered that could eventually exterminate the majority of salamanders in the world.
Abbreviated “Bs” (or Batrachochytrium Salamandrivorans) for short; the new fungus was first detected in the Netherlands last year when black-and-yellow fire salamanders vanished from the country’s forests. “Bd,” or “batrachochytrium dendrobatidis,” was blamed for the disappearance of the colorful creatures; it was later discovered, however, that the Bd fungus was not responsible – instead, a new fungus was to blame for salamander deaths.
Researchers from 12 countries gathered to test the effects of the fungus on 17 North American and European salamander species. The results of the study were that the Bs fungus eliminated 11 of 17 salamander species; 50 salamanders died, with the Pacific Northwest rough-skinned newt and the North American eastern newt falling victim the most (100% mortality). As for the other six species, none infected with the Bs fungus died but researchers say that the new infected salamanders could become carriers of the fungus to other species that are currently free of the fungus.
Chief among those who could carry the disease without suffering from it would be Asian salamanders, who survived the Bs infection in scientific tests. The Bs fungus has existed in Southeast Asia for 30 million years, but made its way to Europe by way of amphibians. Researchers verified that museum specimens collected from Japan, Vietnam, and Thailand date the existence of the Bs fungus to as early as the nineteenth century – showing that certain creatures can be carriers of the fungus while remaining unaffected.
In particular, Chinese fire belly newts are being transported to the US and could bring the disease to America (though no trace of the Bs fungus has yet been detected in the US). Chinese fire belly newts are but one of America’s future problems: the southeastern US is home to the largest number of salamander species on the North American continent.