BERLIN — Europe’s salamanders could be decimated by a flesh-eating alien species that has already wreaked havoc in some parts of the continent, scientists said in a study published Wednesday.
Researchers who examined the impact of the alien invader – a fungus native to Asia – on fire salamanders in Belgium and the Netherlands found it to be lethal to the amphibians and almost impossible to eradicate.
The study published in the journal Nature Research provides a drastic warning to North America, where the fungus hasn’t yet taken hold.
While salamander populations may seem inconsequential to some, biologists warn that the tiny creatures play an important role in the food chain.
“Prevention of introduction is the most important control measure available against the disease,” said study co-author An Martel, a veterinarian at the University of Ghent, Belgium, who specializes in wildlife diseases.
The B. salamandrivorans fungus, which likely was imported to Europe by the pet trade – causes skin ulcers, effectively eating the salamander’s skin and making it susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.
Conservationists in the United States are already monitoring wetlands for signs of the fungus .