Five California amphibian experts warn that a recently discovered fungus already devastating salamanders in Europe could imperil American salamanders, and urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to immediately halt salamander imports until there is a plan to detect and prevent the spread of the fungus.
Salamanders are an important part of forest ecosystems but also a popular pet worldwide. Nearly three quarters of a million salamanders were imported into the U.S. between 2010 and 2014, 99 percent of them from Asia, where the fungus likely originated.
Because of this, the scientists and other herpetologists worry that the fungus could spread from Asia, where the salamanders seem to tolerate the fungus, to more vulnerable parts of the globe. Since it was first recognized in 2013, the fungus has caused a 96 percent fatality rate among the European salamander species that it infected.
What makes a U.S. ban urgent is that a recent study showed that two common American salamanders — the rough-skinned newt found all over the Pacific Coast and the iconic Eastern newt of the Eastern U.S. — are highly susceptible to the fungus.