A salamander-killing fungus hitchhiking via the international live-animal trade may prove especially disastrous if it invades three regions of North America.
Biologists haven’t reported the deadly fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, loose on the continent yet, say Tiffany Yap of UCLA and her colleagues in the July 31 Science. But North America’s native salamanders might have little resistance to a disease thought to have jumped out of Asia before going on a recent salamander killing spree in Europe (SN: 11/29/14, p. 6). The researchers warn that Bsal, which can eat away skin, might cause particularly deep population declines or extinctions of these amphibians in swaths of the southeastern United States, the West Coast and Mexico (see maps).
Salamander diversity ranks as one of the great underappreciated treasures of North America. Forty-eight percent of the world’s 676 known species scurry around the continent.
The risk of fungus invasion via the international live-animal trade is high, Yap and colleagues say. From 2010 through 2014, all U.S. ports combined received more than 768,000 live salamanders either native to Asia or shipped through an Asian port. The most, about 420,000, arrived in Los Angeles, followed by 272,000 in Tampa, Fla. Until regulations are tightened to cope with containing Bsal, the researchers call for an immediate ban on importing live salamanders.