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Audio: North America’s looming salamander pandemic: Is the U.S. ready?

  • Another pandemic is currently on the march, and it’s got salamanders in its sights.
  • ‘Bsal’ nearly wiped out a population of salamanders in Europe, and scientists worry it could invade the United States–the home of the world’s greatest diversity of salamanders–next.
  • Mongabay revisits this issue that the team recently covered in great depth for a special new series of its podcast, to find out what we know about the situation now.
  • Is the U.S. ready for Bsal, and can a pandemic in this global salamander hotspot be prevented, unlike the one that’s currently crippling human societies globally? Listen here to episode one of our special podcast series exploring this topic.

Around 2008, a mysterious disease started killing off the fire salamanders in the Netherlands, and three years later, 96% were dead. That disease, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), is a relative of the chytrid fungus – (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis or ‘Bd’) that has been implicated in the decline or extinction of 200 frog species around the world – and which appears to have originated in Asia via the pet trade.

Experts believe it’s only matter of time before Bsal gets to the U.S. – the world’s hotspot of salamander diversity, where nearly half of all species may be susceptible.

Is the U.S. ready for Bsal, can a pandemic in this global salamander hotspot be prevented, unlike the one that’s currently crippling human societies worldwide? What’s being done, and what would it mean to lose salamanders on a landscape-wide level in North America?

A special series of Mongabay’s podcast tackles these important questions, just as spring and salamanders emerge in the North.

Listen here:

For the next couple months, Mongabay Explores will dive into the recent project our writers and editors produced on Bsal, to learn what’s known about this issue now. The show is hosted by Mike DiGirolamo, who is a journalist, marathoner, and actor living in Tennessee, right near the epicenter of salamander biodiversity in the U.S.

More reading from Mongabay on this topic:

Find episode 2 of this series here.

If you enjoy Mongabay’s podcasts, we ask that you please consider becoming a monthly sponsor via our Patreon page, at Just a dollar or more per month helps us offset production costs and hosting fees, and can help us create special series like Mongabay Explores.

Subscribe to all of Mongabay’s podcasts for free on Apple channels. You can subscribe to Mongabay Explores on Spotify, Apple, Google, or wherever you get podcasts. Listen to all of the Mongabay Explores podcast episodes via the Mongabay website here.

Juvenile eastern newt “efts” are toxic and bright orange. Image courtesy of Virginia State Parks (CC BY 2.0).

Banner image: An eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens) stares down a swab during its Bsal checkup. Photo courtesy of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

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