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. 

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Can hungry microbes save the world’s imperiled frogs? | Grist

Whatever happens to Bd may have wider implications for efforts to manage other species-decimating fungal diseases, like white nose syndrome, which is wiping out hibernating bats in the U.S., or fungus-associated colony collapse disorder in honeybees.
“I am hopeful that it will be possible to reverse the harm these
diseases have done,” Schmeller says. “Otherwise I would dig my grave and
jump in.” He’s still kicking, so we’ll take his word for it.

Check out the whole story here:

Can hungry microbes save the world’s imperiled frogs? | Grist

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Madagascar Could Be on the Brink of Invasion by Asian Toad

Madagascar Could Be on the Brink of Invasion by Asian Toad

The Asian toad looks poised to mount an invasion of Madagascar, potentially setting off an ecological disaster in a country known for its unique animal species.
About 92 percent of Madagascar's mammals and 95 percent of its reptiles are found nowhere else on Earth, according to the World Wildlife Fund. For animals that haven't evolved to deal with a predator like the Asian toad, disease and lack of defense are big concerns, researchers warn in a letter published 29.05.2014 in Nature.

Friday, 9 May 2014

Bd-Maps partners with the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA)

Bd-Maps has partnered with the Amphibian Survival Alliance to seek further development of this community tool for the purposes of globally-mapping amphibian diseases. There is an urgent need to incorporate data as near to real-time as possible in order to track outbreaks - this need is clearly highlighted by the rapid emergence of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (see below). Partnership with the ASA will further the outreach and development of this tool.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans spread into Belgium

The emergence of Bsal in the Netherlands appears to be spreading, with now two sites in Belgium now know to be infected and suffering mortality- Eupen and now Robertville. The zone of infection now encompasses 64 km, with large forested areas of Germany now close to the infected area.

Clearly, biosecurity needs to be very closely adhered to in these infected regions, and those close by, if further spread is to be slowed.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Interacting Symbionts and Immunity in the Amphibian Skin Mucosome Predict Disease Risk and Probiotic Effectiveness

A new paper by Doug Woodhams and collaborators shows that the amphibian skin mucosome predicts the risk of Bd infection and the effectiveness of probiotic therapy. The authors used data from The paper was published in PLoS ONE (

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Frog-Killing Fungus Meets Its Match in Hidden World of Tiny Predators | The Artful Amoeba, Scientific American Blog Network

Dirk Schmeller, Adeline Loyau, Frank Pasmans, Mark Blooi, and their colleagues have discovered that, at least in the alpine lakes of the Pyrenees between France and Spain, tiny predatory microbes can put the disease-causing fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or Bd, soundly in its place. They do this because the fungus has relatives in the lake that look and act similarly, and these fungi make up a natural part of these microbes’ diets. These native microscopic fungi dine on detritus, not frogs. But to micropredatores, the spores of Bd look just like their regular breakfasts, and are evidently just as tasty.

Frog-Killing Fungus Meets Its Match in Hidden World of Tiny Predators | The Artful Amoeba, Scientific American Blog Network

Monday, 28 April 2014

Fungus-Chomping Micro Predators Could Protect Amphibians from Decimating Skin Disease - Scientific American

Fungus-Chomping Micro Predators Could Protect Amphibians from Decimating Skin Disease - Scientific American
In 2012 a team of temperamental donkeys picked their way down the French Pyrenees carrying a payload of voracious protists. Donkeys wouldn't ordinarily be required to ferry single-celled microbes, but these tiny organisms happened to be inhabitants of the several hundred pounds of lake water that the donkeys were also carrying, whether they liked it or not. “It's kind of funny,” says Dirk Schmeller, the scientist whose team hired the donkeys, “because it shows donkeys can help save amphibians.”

Friday, 28 March 2014

BBC News - Salamander threatened by skin-eating fungus

BBC News - Salamander threatened by skin-eating fungus

A deadly skin-eating fungus is threatening the fire salamander population in the Netherlands.
It has driven the creature to the brink of extinction in the
region though it's still unknown whether other countries have seen
similar declines.

Recognisable by its vibrant yellow and black skin, fire
salamanders dropped to a population low of 10 animals before a treatment
programme began.

The findings, in PNAS journal, explain what caused their decline.

Once researchers observed the near catastrophic decline, the animals were taken into captivity.

A treatment programme was developed and youngsters have now
been born. The team plans to reintroduce them into the wild once numbers
are back to a sufficient level.

A team of international scientists was able to isolate the fungus after analysing dead salamanders. Its Latin name, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, means "salamander-eating".

"We need to act urgently to determine what populations are in danger and how best to protect them”

Matthew Fisher
Imperial College London

A related fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) has already threatened over 200 species of amphibians.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Frog's little helpers

Amphibians across the globe are facing calamitous declines. Around a third of species are critically threatened, while extinction rates for amphibians are 200 times higher than for other vertebrates. Several factors underlie these changes: widespread habitat loss, climate change and toxic chemicals in environmental run-off, among others. However, the most prominent cause of epidemic mortality is the fungal pathogen Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, known more simply as Bd. Where it is common, Bd decimates populations. Puzzlingly, however, while Bd infection rates in some ponds are extremely high, other ponds are hardly affected. New research published in Current Biology offers a compelling explanation for this variation. Simultaneously, the results offer a novel route to mitigate Bd-induced amphibian loss. 

The conclusion is very nice!

Frog's little helpers

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Environmental Determinants of Recent Endemism of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis Infections in Amphibian Assemblages in the Absence of Disease Outbreaks

A paper to be published in Conservation Biology written by Annemarieke Spitzen-van der Sluijs and collaborators describe the Bd in the Netherlands. There, Bd is apparently endemic without causing much harm to amphibians. The abstract ist available here:

Wednesday, 12 February 2014 | Hoffnung für Amphibien | Hoffnung für Amphibien

Insgesamt stehen 70 Prozent unserer heimischen Amphibienarten auf der
Roten Liste. Nicht nur in der Schweiz haben es die Amphibien schwer,
sondern weltweit sinken die Amphibienbestände stetig. Neben Klimawandel
und Habitatsverlust ist der Chytridpilz Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) für das grosse Amphibiensterben verantwortlich ( berichtete).   Hat sich der Chytridpilz erst einmal erfolgreich in einer Population
etabliert, kann dies zur kompletten Ausrottung der Population führen.
Dieses Worst-Case-Szenario tritt jedoch nicht bei allen befallenen
Populationen auf. Das zeigten Untersuchungen der Geburtshelferkröte (Alytes obstetricans)
in den Pyrenäen. Aufgrund dieser Beobachtungen begann ein
internationales Forscherteam mit einer Reihe von Experimenten, die
erklären sollten wieso die befallene Amphibienpopulation nicht stirbt.

Friday, 7 February 2014

PhD in Animal Conservation Biology, Uppsala University on Bd

PhD in Animal Conservation Biology, Uppsala University The fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) causes the disease chytridiomycosis and is believed to be one of the major causes for recent global declines of amphibians. Bd was first found in Sweden in 2011. This studentship is aimed at elucidating the relationship between Bd infection and fitness in natural populations of Swedish amphibians. The objective is to determine the extent of Bd infection in Swedish amphibans and whether resistance differs among species and populations. We seek a bright and highly motivated student who ideally holds an M.Sc. or equivalent in a relevant topic (e.g. population-, evolutionary- or conservation genetics/ecology). Experience of working with conservation genetic techniques such as MHC-genetics, sequencing, and genotyping would be advantageous, but full training will be provided. The ideal candidate will also be able to work both independently and as part of a team. A high standard of spoken and written English is required. The student will be based at the Department of Ecology and Genetics (Animal Ecology) at the Evolutionary Biology Centre (EBC) at Uppsala University ( The centre is one of the leading centres for evolutionary biology research in the world and offers a stimulating international environment and excellent research. The working language of the Centre is English. The project is co-supervised by Professors Jacob Höglund and Anssi Laurila. Uppsala is a city of 200,000 inhabitants with an attractive historical centre and easy access to surrounding nature. It offers a very high standard of living and is well connected to the Swedish capital Stockholm and Stockholm-Arlanda international airport. This studentship, which provides a net salary of approx. 2000 per month and includes health insurance, is funded by the Oscar and Lili Lamm Foundation for a period of four years. The salary is at a fixed rate with pre-set increments. Funding is also available for attending conferences. To apply for the position, please provide: (i) a letter of motivation including a maximum 2-page statement of your research interests, relevant skills and experience; (ii) a CV including publication list; and (iii) names and contact details of three referees willing to write confidential letters of recommendation. All materials should be emailed as a single PDF file to: with 'PhD application' in the subject line. Uppsala University is an equal opportunity employer. We particularly welcome applications from women. Given equal suitability, qualifications and professional achievement, women will be given preference, unless particular circumstances pertaining to a male applicant apply. The application deadline is February 28 2014 and interviews will take place shortly afterwards. The preferred start date is flexible and will depend on the timeframe of the most qualified applicant. For further information, please see: contact Jacob Höglund via email ( with any informal inquiries. For representative publications, please see: Rogell B, Thörngren H Laurila A Höglund J 2010 Genetic structure in peripheral populations of the natterjack toad, Bufo calamita,
as revealed by AFLP. Cons Gen 11: 173-181 Rogell B Eklund M Thörngren H Laurila A Höglund J 2010 The effect of selection, drift and genetic variation on life history trait divergence among insular populations. Mol Ecol 19: 2229-2240 Wang B Ekblom R Pollock D Bongcam-Rudloff E Höglund J 2012 Transcriptome sequencing of black grouse (Tetrao tetrix) for immune gene discovery and microsatellite development. Open Biology 2: 120054 _____________________________________________ Anssi Laurila Animal Ecology/ Department of Ecology and Genetics Evolutionary Biology Center Uppsala University Norbyvägen 18D 75236 Uppsala Sweden Tel. +46-18-4716493 Mobile: +46-70-2384356 Coordinator for postgraduate studies at IEG

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Deadly skin-eating fungus threatens Belgian Fire Salamander populations

Amphibians are globally threatened by dramatic population declines, which are in part driven by infectious diseases. Despite the well-known occurrence of several infectious amphibian diseases in Belgium, hitherto, they appear not to have significantly affected our native amphibian assemblages. A novel deadly fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, was discovered in 2012 and almost wiped out the fire salamander in the Netherlands. This fungus now has been found in a dying fire salamander in Eupen by researchers of Ghent University. The finding of the deadly fungus is highly worrisome, since it may be deleterious to the survival of native salamander populations, thus warranting close monitoring of the situation in Eupen and surrounding salamander populations. Contact: Prof. An Martel Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases Division for Poultry, Exotic Companion, Wildlife and Laboratory Animals 0496/831161 An.Martel (at); Prof. Dr. Frank Pasmans Department of Pathology, Bacteriology and Avian Diseases Laboratory of Veterinary Bacteriology and Mycology 09/2647436 Frank.Pasmans (at)