Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Race Against Extinction | The Scientist Magazine®

A Race Against Extinction | The Scientist Magazine®

Few experiences have hit me harder than
walking through a bat graveyard. In March 2014, my colleagues and I were
doing research in a pair of underground mines in northern Illinois.
Five months earlier, these mines had been home to more than 28,000 bats
of five species, but on that day they were tombs, littered with
lifeless, fungus-covered bodies. The bats’ skin was dry and flaking;
their bodies, which hung from the walls near the entrances, were so
emaciated that their bones nearly protruded through their skin.

When we surveyed the area, we found just 1,023 live bats in one mine
and 5,237 in the other. More than 75 percent of the bats were dead from
white-nose syndrome, an emerging disease caused by the fungal pathogen Pseudogymnoascus destructans.
We left Illinois the next day emotionally spent. Our team, along with
the broader community of biologists who study this disease, has been
searching for ways to prevent this pattern of devastation from repeating
itself. Sadly, white-nose syndrome continues to ravage bat populations
as it spreads westward across the continent. (See map here.) Over the
past seven years, the disease has killed millions of bats in 25 states
and five Canadian provinces, making it one of the most devastating
diseases to affect mammals in recorded history.

Unfortunately, bats are not the only animals struggling to survive in
the face of emerging pathogens. Amphibians have been decimated by
chytridiomycosis, another fungal disease that is now found on all
continents except Antarctica and is believed to have driven more than
100 species to extinction. Meanwhile, millions of birds in North America
have died from West Nile virus, which became the most widespread
mosquito-borne disease on the planet when it spread across the Americas
in the past decade.

Such destructive outbreaks are often spurred by the emergence of
pathogens in new locations, where hosts have not yet evolved sufficient
defenses against these diseases. Understanding what shapes these
epidemics is instrumental in bringing them under control and reducing
their impacts on the world’s biodiversity.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Recently Discovered Salamander-Devouring Fungus and Reasons for Concern for the Future the Salamander Biodiversity in the United States | Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

The Recently Discovered Salamander-Devouring Fungus and Reasons for Concern for the Future the Salamander Biodiversity in the United States | Amphibian Rescue and Conservation Project

Enigmatic Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) declines in the Netherlands have been attributed to the recently described fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bs). Since 2010, the S. salamandra population at Bunderbos, Netherlands has decreased by 96%. An Martel et al’s recent Science paper
showed that some US salamander species are highly susceptible to Bs,
confirmed its occurrence in the pet trade, and noted that it has not yet
been detected in the US. Large numbers of live salamanders are legally
imported into the US each year for the pet trade. In the first 6 months
of 2014, for example, 3,445 fire salamanders imported into the US,
mostly from Slovenia.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

United Nations issues guidelines to minimize risk of invasive species

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has adopted new guidelines to prevent and control biological invasions by pets, aquarium and terrarium species, live bait and live food. The new guidance is largely based on input from the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG). Invasive alien species are animals, plants or other organisms introduced into places out of their natural range, where they become established and disperse, generating a negative impact on the local ecosystem and species. Species invasions are a major and growing driver of biodiversity loss. Alien invasive species contributed to the extinction of 54% of the 170 extinct animal species on The IUCN Red List for which the cause of extinction is known, and were the main cause for 20% of these extinctions. The introduction of alien invasive species is continuously increasing as a result of growing international trade. Escape and release of pets, exotic caged animals, and species used as live bait or food are a major cause of biological invasions. Around 10,000 pets and companion species are present in Europe alone, including around 1,000 birds, several hundred mammals, around 2,000 species of reptiles and amphibians, as well as many invertebrates, including venomous spiders and scorpions. Domestic cats threaten bird, mammal, and reptile populations in many parts of the world and invasive Grey Squirrels in Europe are outcompeting and transmitting disease to native Red Squirrels. Escaped exotic snakes, such as the Burmese Python in Florida and the Common Kingsnake on the Canary Islands, are damaging native wildlife. Population explosions of escaped or released pet rabbits are causing problems in many areas. Over 10,000 rabbits have invaded Helsinki, Finland, where they have taken over parks and graveyards, consuming flowers, loosening tree roots, and toppling tombstones. Amphibians traded as pets or food are responsible for the spread of the deadly chytrid fungus that is causing the decline of wild amphibians globally. The Common Earthworm, a popular bait species, is detrimentally affecting the forest ecosystems of North America, and invasive crayfish species introduced for food are harming freshwater ecosystems in many areas. The Red Swamp Crayfish alone threatens two Critically Endangered and six Endangered species globally. The CBD also asked Parties to compile and share information on alien invasive species and to make these data available to the databases managed by the IUCN SSC ISSG. IUCN was called upon to continue providing technical support to the Convention, such as further elaborating methods to rank invasive species by the magnitude of their impacts, and continuing to carry out assessments on the positive and negative effects of the use of biocontrol agents to combat invasive species. The guidelines were adopted on 10 October 2014 during the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD (COP 12) in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea. For more information, please contact IUCN SSC ISSG Chair, Piero Genovesi Link to the original article:

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Moving Beyond Too Little, Too Late: Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases in Wild Populations Requires International Policy and Partnerships

A new paper (to be published in EcoHealth) describes the need for establishing a transnational network and response system for emerging infectious diseases in wildlife.
Picture taken from

Monday, 22 September 2014

The chytrid fungus in the Netherlands

"Environmental Determinants of Recent Endemism of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infections in Amphibian Assemblages in the Absence of Disease Outbreaks" is the title of a new paper by Annemarieke Spitzen-van der Sluijs and collaborators. It describes the distribution and effects of the chytrid fungus in the Netherlands. While Bd appears to be widespread, it does not seem to have a strong negative effect on amphibians. Link to the abstract:

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Frogmarching to disaster

Frogmarching to disaster |

The most significant catchphrase of our times is ‘threatened by
extinction.’ Frogs are no exception, after having thrived on earth for
aeons, just like other hapless species. The tragic part is that the true
groundswell of concern for their impending doom, or plight, is yet to
gain momentum on a global scale, like other environmental issues. If
this is not just the tip of the iceberg, but a ‘titanic’ leapfrog to
disaster, what is? Go figure.