Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) © Annelies Jacobs

Since the description and subsequent discovery of the origins of the novel fungal disease Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) the world’s amphibian conservationist have gone in full alert. Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra terrestris) populations in the Netherlands and Belgium have crashed to the brink of local extinction due to the fungus. The latest study shows that most of Europe’s salamander species and some North American species die soon after exposure to the fungus (Martel et al. 2014). All the ingredients for a potential global ecological disaster are in place. We all know what a close relative of this new fungus, B. dendrobatidis, has caused worldwide…

In the beginning of may two dead Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) were found in Flanders (Belgium), by the University of Ghent. Luckily it is not a massive break out (yet) but very concerning indeed. Other Alpine Newts (43 in total) in the pond where the dead ones were found were tested. Luckily they were not infected. The pond will be closely monitored in the months to come! The Alpine Newt was found infected in the Netherlands before but it never lead to mortality. This has been the first time that a newt species has been affected to the point of death by this fungus outside of laboratory settings.

The fact that a second species of Urodelan is now affected by Bsal is very worrying and more research, monitoring and education and funds are urgently needed!

By Tariq Stark

Reference: Martel, M. Blooi, C. Adriaensen, P. Van Rooij, W. Beukema, M. C. Fisher, R. A. Farrer, B. R. Schmidt, U. Tobler, K. Goka, K. R. Lips, C. Muletz, K. R. Zamudio, J. Bosch, S. Lotters, E. Wombwell, T. W. J. Garner, A. A. Cunningham, A. Spitzen-van der Sluijs, S. Salvidio, R. Ducatelle, K. Nishikawa, T. T. Nguyen, J. E. Kolby, I. Van Bocxlaer, F. Bossuyt, F. Pasmans. Recent introduction of a chytrid fungus endangers Western Palearctic salamanders. Science, 2014; 346 (6209): 630 DOI: 10.1126/science.1258268

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