Saving Europe's salamanders

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Science  21 Jul 2017:
Vol. 357, Issue 6348, pp. 242-245
DOI: 10.1126/science.357.6348.242

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Nearly a third of amphibian species worldwide are in danger of extinction. Although the primary threats are loss of habitat and pollution, disease seems to be playing an increasing role. Over the past decades, the chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis has been linked to many extinctions of frogs in the Americas. In 2013, Frank Pasmans and An Martel, veterinarians at Ghent University in Belgium, discovered the second chytrid fungus to plague amphibians: Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which is particularly deadly to salamanders. The fungus arrived from Asia via the pet trade and is spreading in Northern Europe. Research led by Pasmans and Martel—partners in work as well in life—has provided insights into why the fungus can be so devastating. No one knows how to slow Bsal’s spread, but Pasmans, Martel, and many others are discussing measures such as trade restrictions, habitat protection, and even enlisting bacteria to fight the pathogen.