Mon, 06 Feb 2017 09:45:00 CST — by: Peter Davis
The USGS visited Sewanee’s campus this past Tuesday as part of their ARMI, amphibian research and monitoring initiative. A recently discovered fungus from Southeastern Asia, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or Bsal, is currently devastating salamander communities in Europe. Amphibians are the most endangered vertebrate mainly due to habitat loss and disease, which is exacerbated by infections like Bsal. The fungus is projected to spread to the US in the near future and severely harm North American salamander species, particularly newts. A worldwide proliferation of the amphibian pet trade has allowed Bsal to potentially travel worldwide. With the imminent arrival of Bsal, the USGS has been involved with surveying and monitoring the spread of this fungal infection in order to best respond to this dire situation.
The USGS is going county by county throughout the Southeast in order to monitor the risk of Bsal. Lake Cheston was chosen as the test site for Franklin County. Thirty eastern spotted newts were captured at Lake Cheston early Tuesday morning in order to swab for the fungal infection. After the newts were gathered all thirty individuals were swabbed with Q-tips twice and then released. Each swab was placed in a separate vial before being sent off to be tested for possible fungal infection.
While the spread of the fungus may be imminent, a comprehensive tracking of Bsal can help biologists and other experts properly respond to this threat.