Unisexual Ambystoma

Unisexual Ambystoma

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Required reading: What are we going to do about saving salamanders?

The fungi are coming for all the animals I love.

Frogs have declined across the world. Bats are disappearing from North America. Even snakes! From the outside looking in, our American biodiversity is a hodgepodge of invasive species surrounding smaller and smaller pockets of protected native flora and fauna. 

And now, you may be able to add salamanders to the list. Nooo!

Eastern Newt in red eft phase (Notopthalmus viridescens)

A recent publication in the journal Science describes the threat of a skin fungus that causes massive die offs of salamanders in Europe. Like the fungal pathogens that have caused declines in frogs and bats, this fungus has been introduced into areas where the local wildlife has no evolutionary history with the pathogen, and therefore lacks a natural defense with no time to develop one. In this case, the salamander fungus has an Asian origin and has recently been introduced to naive European salamanders.

So this fungus isn't even in North America? Right, not yet. However, the danger is a real one. North America is THE place for salamanders. We are the Amazon for these animals. You can walk across a few hills in Georgia and see more salamander species than you could find in a coast-to-coast trek across Costa Rica.

Credit to Clinton Jenkins

Here is your required reading if you want to know how to help and potentially make a difference:

1. This news article from the New York Times
2. This excellent editorial by Drs. Karen Lips and Joe Mendelson

Cumberland Plateau Salamander (Plethodon kentucki)

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