The fire salamander, the most populous and widespread species of its kind, has unfortunately fallen victim to a deadly fungus and scientists are becoming concerned regarding the future of its existence. A study conducted over a period of two years in Belgium provided researchers with the alarming results of the creature’s full extinction in the nation. This is due to them not being able to develop any kind of immunity to the fungus in question, which is said to have originated from Asia.
Science Magazine has revealed that the ailment has the possibility to spread among other creatures in the continent, most specifically birds, to whose feet “hardy spores” will stick to. These spores can also survive in water for months. Two amphibian species other than the fire salamander are also potential carriers to the disease, despite being resistant to it.
The pathogen, scientifically known as Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, is a type of fungus of the chytrid variety which lives in wet or damp environments and for the most part consumes dead organic matter. Bsal, as the disease is more commonly known, acts by eating the skin of salamanders. The creature is then affected with loss of appetite, apathy as well as legions on its skin, with these ailments eventually leading to the amphibian’s death.
BBC reports that, over the past few decades, a similar pathogen has struck amphibian populations across the world, wiping out at least 200 species of toads and frogs, this disease known as B. dendrobatidis or Bd. Spain, Portugal, Australia, and the Americas were particularly affected by these losses.
The pathogen directly affecting the fire salamander was first discovered in 2013, at a nature reserve in the Netherlands. Researchers detected the disease after they noticed the creatures losing their lives to ulcers and sores, ones similar to those caused by Bd.
According to The Detroit News, Bsal has also been found in Germany over the years, not only in fire salamanders but also in alpine newts. Immediately after the pathogen was discovered in Belgium, Ghent University veterinarian An Martel and her colleagues began tracking the species’ population monthly. Half a year later, 90 percent of the creatures were dead, and within the next 24 months every single one was deceased. The results from the study’s fieldwork revealed that fully grown creatures were more likely to be infected with the disease, a conclusion agreed upon by scientists as older animals spent more time in close proximity to each other than those younger.
By Lorelai Zelmerlow