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Close look at new fungus reveals origins, spread of salamander killer

A second chytrid pathogen has struck Europe but hasn’t hit North America yet

11:05am, October 31, 2014
fire salamander

SALAMANDERS BEWARE  Skin lesions on the face of a fire salamander show the ravages of a chytrid fungus species discovered last year, now suspected of escaping from Asia. 

A salamander-killing fungus first described in 2013 looks as if it originated in Asia and is hitchhiking around the world in the pet trade.

The fungus, nicknamed Bs, for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, came to the attention of science during baffling die-offs of rare fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Another Batrachochytrium fungus had ravaged amphibian populations in recent decades. But An Martel of Ghent University in Belgium and her colleagues ruled it out in the new die-offs and discovered that the culprit was an unknown relative, which researchers named last year (SN: 10/5/13, p. 18). Now, after more surveys and lab tests, Martel and collaborators start to answer questions on the spread and targets of Bs in the Oct. 31 Science.

“It is appropriate to be exceptionally concerned, if not alarmed,” says Jamie Voyles

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