In order to keep North-American salamanders safe from an extremely deadly species of fungus that could reach them through imported Asian salamanders that are resistant to the disease, the scientific community is asking for an official ban on salamander imports to North America.
The international pet trade is extremely dangerous because it enables animals to travel all along the world along with their local bugs and parasites and essentially spread them to their foreign relatives, who might or might not be equipped to battle these microscopic predators. The opposite version is also extremely possible, since imported animals could fall victims to pathogens that are specific to the area where they are imported.
In the case of fire salamanders, the pathogen in cause is a new species of fungus, called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or B.sal. in short, that originates in Asia and that the local salamanders have developed natural resistance to. Therefore, the Asian salamanders carry the fungus, but they are asymptomatic, as they cannot be affected by it any more. The North American fire salamanders however have never been faced with this fungus and they do no have the means to fight it off and could be easily killed by it.
A few years back, a fungus from the same family as B.sal. called Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (or B.d. in short) has decimated entire amphibian population. Both types of fungus develop on the salamanders’ skin and prevent them from breathing and hydrating normally, as these small amphibians need to use their skin for these roles.
After experiencing the wrath of B.d., the scientific community is sounding the alarm in regards to B.sal. . The new fungus species has been identified in Europe, in the Netherlands and was initially thought to be B.d.. When veterinarian An Martel of the Ghent University from Belgium ran DNA tests, they pointed out that it was not B.d. and it was proved to be an entirely new species, which they described as B.sal. and eventually attributed to Asian salamanders, that are resistant to its effects.
The only way that scientists believe that B. sal. could be kept away from North America is by banning salamander imports into the region. In the event that B.sal. does makes its way onto American soil, the effects will be devastating and therefore it is necessary that the strictest measures be put into action in order to keep the spread of the disease at bay.
Fire salamanders are quite popular as part of the pet trade, but it is crucial that their entrance to America is stopped at all costs, since one single infected salamander could spread the disease extremely fast and end up killing millions and millions of American amphibians, that could have extremely serious effects on the environment.
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