Public Release: 

North America's salamanders at risk of epidemic from overseas

American Association for the Advancement of Science

This news release is available in Japanese.

The international pet trade threatens to spread a deadly fungal infection to North America's rich wild salamander population and must be frozen, according to the authors of this Policy Forum. Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) is a highly virulent, often fatal fungus that infects salamanders, and there is no effective way to control it after it infects a wild population, say Tiffany Yap and colleagues. It is theorized that Bsal started in Asia and spread to wild European salamanders via the international pet trade, causing a mass die-off in the Netherlands and endangering North America, which is home to nearly half of all recognized salamander species. Yap and colleagues combined maps of Bsal's most suitable habitats in North America and areas with the greatest salamander biodiversity to create a predictive model of where wild salamanders are most vulnerable. They found three high-risk zones, and the five most-active U.S. ports are all within or near them. The authors call for an immediate ban on live salamander imports until protocols to stop the spread of Bsal are established. Immediate action by the U.S. is critical yet insufficient, they say. Either existing international organizations concerned with animal health must prioritize wildlife epidemics and be granted the necessary powers to intervene in the international pet trade, or a new organization must be founded.

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Article #3: "Averting a North American biodiversity crisis," by T.A. Yap; R.F. Ambrose at University of California, Los Angeles in Los Angeles, CA; T.A. Yap; M.S. Koo; D.B. Wake; V.T. Vredenburg at University of California, Berkeley in Berkeley, CA; T.A. Yap; V.T. Vredenburg at San Francisco State University in San Francisco, CA.

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