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A new, yet old, threat to amphibians
Globally, populations of amphibians have been severely affected by a disease caused by the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis. Recently, some European salamander populations were decimated by the emergence of a new, related chytrid fungus, B. salamandrivorans. Martel et al. screened amphibians across continents. This newly emerging threat seems to have originated in Asia and traveled to Europe with salamanders transported as part of the pet trade. Asian salamanders have evolved resistance to the pathogen, but salamanders from other parts of the world are highly susceptible.
Science, this issue p. 630
Emerging infectious diseases are reducing biodiversity on a global scale. Recently, the emergence of the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans resulted in rapid declines in populations of European fire salamanders. Here, we screened more than 5000 amphibians from across four continents and combined experimental assessment of pathogenicity with phylogenetic methods to estimate the threat that this infection poses to amphibian diversity. Results show that B. salamandrivorans is restricted to, but highly pathogenic for, salamanders and newts (Urodela). The pathogen likely originated and remained in coexistence with a clade of salamander hosts for millions of years in Asia. As a result of globalization and lack of biosecurity, it has recently been introduced into naïve European amphibian populations, where it is currently causing biodiversity loss.