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Jul 30, 2015 04:07 PM EDT

Researchers Recommend Ban on Salamander Importing to Stop Deadly Fungus from Spreading

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In order to save the nation's population of salamanders, researchers believe there needs to be a strict ban on importing them to prevent the spread of a deadly fungus.

According to Live Science, imported salamanders can carry a fungus almost certain to kill any one that contracts it. The fungus is known as Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), which was first discovered in 2013 among fire salamanders in the Netherlands.

Researchers at the University of California - Berkeley (UCB) and San Francisco State University (SFSU) published their study in the journal Science.

"This is an imminent threat, and a place where policy could have a very positive effect," study co-author Vance Vredenburg, a biologist at SFSU, said in a press release. "We actually have a decent chance of preventing a major catastrophe.

"We've made specific predictions, on the ground, of where North American species are most vulnerable to Bsal," he said. "And the places that have the highest amount of trade in these salamanders happen to be in those high-risk areas."

The study authors noted Bsal appears to be extremely deadly among salamander populations that have not evolved with it. The fatality rate in Europe among those infected was 96 percent, Live Science reported.

"Because salamanders are small, often nocturnal and live underground, they are an often overlooked but integral part of the ecosystem," Michelle Koo, a researcher in the UCB Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, said in a press release. "They're frequently the top predator and can make up the majority of the animal biomass of a forest. This fungus puts at risk an important part of a healthy forest."

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