An ocean away, a threat to American salamanders looms: a newly-discovered disease called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans. It's already hit European salamanders, spread by Asian amphibians who carry the fungal pathogen but are resistant to its ill effects. Salamanders further west, on the other hand, have up to a 96 percent mortality rate.
Biologists Karen Lips and Joseph Mendelson III took to the New York Times on Friday, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prevent the importation of salamander species.
This fungus has not arrived in the United States yet, so far as we know. But if it does, it is likely to spread across the country, as it appears to be doing in Europe, with catastrophic consequences. The continental United States has more species of salamanders than any other place on earth.
The threat of this new fungus, however, isn't the only pressing issue facing American amphibians. To say the last 30 years have not been kind to these animals would be an understatement; Lips and Mendelson, comparing Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans to what has come before, use phrases like "apocalyptic" and "mass die-offs."