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Fri, Feb

Saving Salamanders: Vital to Ecosystem Health

Typography

Amphibians—the big-eyed, swimming-crawling-jumping-climbing group of water and land animals that includes frogs, toads, salamanders and worm-like caecilians—are the world’s most endangered vertebrates. 

One-third of the planet’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Now, these vulnerable creatures are facing a new foe: the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) fungus, which is the source of an emerging amphibian disease that caused the die-off of wild European salamander populations.

Amphibians—the big-eyed, swimming-crawling-jumping-climbing group of water and land animals that includes frogs, toads, salamanders and worm-like caecilians—are the world’s most endangered vertebrates. 

One-third of the planet’s amphibian species are threatened with extinction. Now, these vulnerable creatures are facing a new foe: the Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) fungus, which is the source of an emerging amphibian disease that caused the die-off of wild European salamander populations.

The Bsal fungus has not yet appeared in U.S. salamander populations. However, scientists caution that without preventive measures, the fungus is likely to emerge via the international pet trade or through other human activities. From 2010 to 2014, over 750,000 salamanders were legally imported into the United States.

Salamanders control pests by eating insects like mosquitos and by becoming food for larger animals. Their moist, permeable skin makes salamanders vulnerable to drought and toxic substances, so they are exceptional indicators of ecosystem health. The health of important ecosystems, including forests and wetlands, contributes billions of dollars to the economy by supporting the fishing and timber industries and recreation.

Continue reading at USGS (United States Geological Survey)

Image via USGS.