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Tuesday September 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Tuesday September 10, 2013 MYT 7:42:51 AM
A fire salamander, a breed that has been experiencing a mass die-off in the Netherlands because of a new kind of skin-eating fungus. — AFP/ Imperial College London
Their deaths put ecosystem's health at risk.
A NEW kind of skin-eating fungus has been killing fire salamanders in the Netherlands at an alarming rate, European researchers said last week. The boldly-coloured yellow and black salamanders have dwindled rapidly since 2010, with just 4% of their original population left.
Scientists said they had identified the cause as a fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans.
This salamander-eating fungus appears to be related to another kind – Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd – that is blamed for killing more than 40% of amphibian species in parts of Central America, Austria, Europe and North America, or decimating about 200 species worldwide.
This fungus – which may live in water or soil, or may be a parasite – causes a disease called chytridiomycosis, which has been lethal to some frogs but not others.
Study co-author An Martel of Belgium said it was extremely worrying that a new fungus has emerged to cause mass die-offs in regions where amphibian life was previously healthy.
Scientists took 39 fire salamanders into captivity for protection and to start a breeding programme, but then, half of them died late last year. Only around 10 remain.
So far, the fungus appears to be isolated to the Netherlands. But the emergence of the fungus “is worrying and warrants close monitoring, urgent risk analysis, and inclusion in any monitoring program assessing amphibian population health,” the study concluded.
Amphibian populations play an important indicative role in ecosystem health. — AFP
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Science & Technology, Science, skin-eating fungus, fire salamander, the Netherlands
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