More Than Skin Deep

A flesh-eating fungus threatens little American salamanders in a big way.

Last month the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service put a travel ban on salamanders, preventing 201 species from being imported or moved across state lines. It’s for their own good. A flesh-eating fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, or Bsal, has been decimating Europe’s salamanders, and wildlife officials worry that North America's could be next.

Bsal likely originated in Asia, where amphibians then evolved alongside it, rendering it harmless. But when Asian salamanders end up in other parts of the world (thanks mostly to the pet trade), the translocated sallies can spread the fungus to native species, who dont stand a chance. Should a Bsal outbreak strike here, the consequences would be particularly devastating, because the United States is a biodiversity hotspot for these amphibians. The above Vox video explains why we need to protect these unsung (and many already endangered) heroes of the forest. 

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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