Sunday, 15 December, 2019


Fungal Disease Threatens Snakes of All Kinds Worldwide, Study Says

Fungal Disease Threatens Snakes of All Kinds Worldwide, Study Says Fungal Disease Threatens Snakes of All Kinds Worldwide, Study Says
Patty Aguilar | 23 December, 2017, 11:19

The study published in journal Science Advances on December 20 said no species was immune to the fungal disease found already in wild species such as garter snakes, milk snakes, and vipers in the eastern United States, as well as three species in Europe.

Those snakes were on the far northern edge of their species' habitat, and showed signs they had suffered from inbreeding. Then rattlesnakes in IL, called massasaugas, began to suffer.

"In this study, our model found no association other than 'you are a snake, '" Frank Burbrink, lead author and an associate curator in the American Museum of Natural History's Department of Herpetology, said in a press release.

In order to search for common traits between the infected snakes and to possibly identify potentially susceptible species, researchers used an artificial neural network and found that there were no common traits, whether physical, evolutionary, or ecological. The bottom line? There is a real possibility the disease is more widespread than we first assumed, and as more studies are conducted, we may find a reduction in populations uniformly across taxa with different ecologies, physiologies, demographics, and migration rates, and that is bad news for the environment. "Our study suggests that first responders shouldn't just be looking for certain types of snakes that have this disease, but at the whole community".

Snake fungal disease can clear up when the snake sheds its skin.

This study argues that all snakes could become or are already infected. Found predominantly in rat snakes, milk snakes, garter snakes and vipers in eastern parts of the United States, it has also been detected in Europe, including in the UK. The disease is most prominent in the eastern parts of the USA, where it's already causing population declines. The paper suggests that three main groups of Ophidiomyces exist, two sister clades in wild snakes in Europe and North America and one deeper clade represented by an isolate from a captive snake in the United Kingdom.

By 2009, Ophidiomyces ophidiodiicola, the fungus that causes the lesions, had been named.

It's very hard at the moment to predict the scope and spread of SFD, so the research team turned to a neural network for help.

They looked for associations that could be used to predict which species might be susceptible - the results showed that all 98 groups of snakes in the eastern USA could be at risk and the epidemic might extend globally.

Indeed, this finding is particularly upsetting given how bad fungal infections are known to be. This way, perhaps it would be possible to prevent a significant population decline such as the case of the white-nose syndrome in bats wherein the infection has spread from coast to coast, resulting in major population decline in at least four species and the possible extinction of one.

"These diseases have had such great impacts because they affect multiple species, and it now looks like the same is true of snake fungal disease", he said in the statement.

"We need to know more about the extent of the disease", Burbrink told Gizmodo. And where globally is this occurring?

"The demographic of the disease and how its really working across all these species and populations are unknown, but we do know that it can take populations down, it can have 100% mortality in some". "So, lots more people monitoring this in the field and in research collections and laboratories". "They're so different ecologically and evolutionarily that we think any snake could get it". "Losing them in any population will certainly be to the detriment of a healthy ecosystem for other organisms and humans".

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