Photo by Matt Hembree
By Peter Davis
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) visited Sewanee’s campus on Tuesday, January 31 as part of the Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI). A recently discovered fungus from Southeast Asia, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans or Bsal, is currently devastating salamander communities in Europe. The USGS is going county by county throughout the Southeast in order to monitor the risk of Bsal, with Lake Cheston as the test site for Franklin County.
Amphibians are the most endangered vertebrate, mainly because of habitat loss and disease, which is exacerbated by infections like Bsal. The fungus is projected to spread to the U.S. 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.
30 eastern spotted newts were captured at Lake Cheston on the early morning of January 31 to swab for the fungal infection. After the newts were gathered, all 30 individuals were swabbed with Q-tips twice and then released. Each swab was placed in a separate vial before testing for 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.