The eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, suffers from habitat loss and environmental stresses wherever it is found, said University of Illinois comparative biosciences visiting instructor and wildlife veterinarian Matthew Allender, who led the health investigation.
Photo courtesy: Matthew Allender
The eastern massasauga rattlesnake normally spends spring in shallow wetlands and summer in drier upland areas.
Long-term population studies of the snake – in Illinois and elsewhere – had never turned up evidence of debilitating fungal infections. But in 2008, biologists studying the snake reported to Allender that they had found three sick snakes in a park in southern Illinois, all with disfiguring lesions on their heads. The snakes died within three weeks of their discovery. A fourth snake with a similar syndrome was discovered in the same park in the spring of 2010.
Allender conducted necropsies on the snakes and identified the pathogen that had killed them: Chrysosporium, a fungus that plagues portions of the pet reptile industry but is not normally seen in the wild, he said.
“Chrysosporium causes disease in bearded dragons and in other snakes and it’s a bad bug,” Allender said. “We see it in captive animals worldwide, but we don’t typically find it in free-ranging animals.”
Chrysosporium also is emerging as a dangerous infection in humans with weakened immune systems, he said.
Shortly after he first presented his findings at a meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Allender heard from other biologists about similar infections in snakes in the northeast United States.
“They seem to be having a similar problem in timber rattlesnakes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts,” Allender said. Although biologists have sporadically identified Chrysosporium in those snakes, the symptoms they report – facial swelling and ulcers and malformations of the jaw – are the same, he said. These infections also occurred only within the last five years.
“Fungal pathogens have been increasingly associated with free-ranging epidemics in wildlife, including the well-known effects of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis on frog populations globally and white-nosed syndrome in bats,” Allender wrote in a December 2011 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases. “Both of these diseases cause widespread and ongoing deaths in these populations that seriously threaten biodiversity across the United States.”
Allender sees this new occurrence of a fungal infection in endangered snakes as a “yellow flag” that warrants more study.
“Wildlife diseases and human health are not that different,” he said. “And often wildlife are our window into a weakened environment that leads to disease in both people and animals.”Editor's note: To contact Matthew Allender, call 217-265-0320; email email@example.com.
The paper, “Chrysosporium sp. Infection in Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes,” is available online.
Diana Yates | EurekAlert!
International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy