Invasive Fu…


Invasive Fungi Wreak Havoc on Species Worldwide

In 2008 Matthew Allender, a wildlife veterinarian affiliated with the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, noticed something wrong with some of the rattlesnakes he’d been studying as part of a population-monitoring program near Carlyle, Ill. His team had found three eastern massasauga rattlesnakes (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus) with severe facial swelling and disfiguration. Allender brought them back to his lab for observation. The lesions ulcerated and progressed beneath the skin. When the snakes died just three weeks later the disease had deformed their mouths, nasal passages and fangs beyond recognition.
Allender described a fungus, Chrysosporium, as the culprit. In 2010 Allender’s team found another infected snake, and since then two more. Allender doesn’t yet understand how the disease is transmitted—or how to stop it.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in wild snakes before,” Allender says. “Nor has anyone else. In almost all organisms, fungi are opportunistic pathogens that attack compromised immune systems. These were otherwise healthy snakes,” however, he says. Already suffering from diminishing numbers, the snake is a candidate for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s threatened species list.

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