A skin-eating fungal disease brought to Europe by humans now poses a major threat to native salamanders and newts, scientists of the Universities of Zurich and Ghent University have warned. They say nations need to urgently consider appropriate biosecurity measures to stop the further spread of this pathogen.
The previously unknown fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans was discovered last year by researchers investigating a huge crash in the population of fire salamanders in the Netherlands.
Now the same team have screened over 5,000 amphibians from four continents to ascertain the threat the new disease presents to other species.The results, published today in the journal Science, show that B. salamandrivorans is very dangerous to salamanders and newts, but not to frogs, toads and snake-like amphibians called caecilians.
The fungus was found to be present in amphibians from Thailand, Vietnam and Japan as early as 1894, without causing disease, suggesting it originates from Southeast Asia.
The fungus probably arrived in Europe recently, and its presence in traded amphibians suggests that the intercontinental movement of amphibians explains its introduction. So far the disease has only been found in the Netherlands and Belgium, but the researchers say it is likely to reach other European countries soon. The great crested newt, a protected and threatened species in Switzerland, is among the species that rapidly die once infected.
No disease in the place of origin
The study was led by Professors An Martel and Frank Pasmans at Ghent University in collaboration with Dr. Ursina Tobler and Benedikt Schmidt at the University of Zurich and KARCH, the Swiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Programme, and others. “When a disease has been around for a long time, animals develop resistance to it.
Globalisation has resulted in the movement of humans and animals all across the world, bringing pathogens into contact with hosts that haven’t had the opportunity to establish resistance. As a consequence, pathogens like B. salamandrivorans that are brought to a new environment can very rapidly threaten many species with extinction,” said co-author Dr Benedikt Schmidt, from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich and KARCH, the Swiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Programme.
Biosecurity measures needed
Asian salamanders and newts are traded in large numbers across the globe. More than 2.3 million Chinese fire belly newts were imported into the US between 2001 and 2009. The researchers found that the fungus can easily be transmitted between salamanders of different species by direct contact.
Co-author Dr Benedikt Schmidt, from the Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies at the University of Zurich and KARCH, the Swiss Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Programme, said: “This study has shown the threat of importing exotic species without appropriate screening for infectious diseases. B. salamandrivorans poses an extreme risk to European amphibian biodiversity and nations need to urgently consider appropriate biosecurity measures to stop the further spread of this emerging pathogen”.
A. Martel, M. Blooi, C. Adriaensen, P. Van Rooij, W. Beukema, M.C. Fisher, R.A. Farrer, B.R. Schmidt, U. Tobler, K. Goka, K.R. Lips, C. Muletz, K. Zamudio, J. Bosch, S. Lötters, E. Wombwell, T.W.J. Garner, A.A. Cunningham, A. Spitzen-van der Sluijs, S. Salvidio, R. Ducatelle, K. Nishikawa, T.T. Nguyen, J.E. Kolby, I. Van Bocxlaer, F. Bossuyt, F. Pasmans: Recent introduction of a chytrid fungus endangers Western Palaearctic salamanders, in: Science. doi:10.1126/science.1258268
Funding of the study
The study was funded (among others) by the Special Research Fund of Ghent University, the Royal Zoological Society of Antwerp, Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs. Funding in Switzerland came from Vontobel Stiftung, Janggen-Pöhn Stiftung, Basler Stiftung für biologische Forschung, Stiftung Dr. Joachim De Giacomi, Zoo Zürich, Grün Stadt Zürich, European Union of Aquarium Curators, and Zürcher Tierschutz.
Dr Benedikt Schmidt
Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies
University of Zurich
Tel. +41 (32) 725 72 07, 078 719 69 16
University of Zurich
Tel. +41 44 634 44 39
Bettina Jakob | Universität Zürich
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Value from wastewater
16.08.2017 | Hochschule Landshut
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
22.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
22.08.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
22.08.2017 | Medical Engineering