Ban On Salamander Imports In U.S. To Prevent Deadly Fungus

First Posted: Jul 31, 2015 09:18 AM EDT

Researchers are calling for a strict ban on the nation's population of salamanders in order to prevent deadly fungus from spreading, according to researchers at the University of California-Berkeley (UCB) and San Francisco State University (SFSU). The findings are published in the journal Science.

"This is an imminent threat, and a place where policy could have a very positive effect," study co-author Vance Vredenburg, a biologist at SFSU, said in a press release. "We actually have a decent chance of preventing a major catastrophe.

"We've made specific predictions, on the ground, of where North American species are most vulnerable to Bsal," he said. "And the places that have the highest amount of trade in these salamanders happen to be in those high-risk areas."

According to researchers, Bsal appears to be extremely deadly among salamander populations that have not evolved with it. And from there, the fatality rate in Europe is among those infected is close to 96 percent.

Earlier this spring, scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity also started an online petition pressuring federal officials to take steps to prevent the fungus from infecting amphibians in the United States.

"Because salamanders are small, often nocturnal and live underground, they are an often overlooked but integral part of the ecosystem," added Michelle Koo, a researcher in the UCB Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. "They're frequently the top predator and can make up the majority of the animal biomass of a forest. This fungus puts at risk an important part of a healthy forest."

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