German Journal of Herpetology

Böning, P., J. Virgo, S. Bleidissel, N. Dabbagh, L. Dalbeck, S. Ellwart, L. Feiler, V. Ferner, T. Fleck, L. Gemeinhardt, M. Guschal, G. Hansbauer, K. Kirst, T. Kordges, L. Kühnle, S. Neumann, A. Plewnia, K. Preissler, M. Schlüpmann, M. Schneider et al.

In Issues 2023

Key questions about the impact of the salamander plague on the Northern Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus – a German perspective. pp. 107-116 plus Supplementary material.

Abstract. For at least two decades, European amphibians have been affected by the ‘salamander plague’, an emerging infectious disease caused by the invasive chytrid skin fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) that originated from Asia. Resulting dramatic declines are well known from the European Fire Salamander, while the impact of Bsal on other European amphibians in the wild is less clear. We here focus on the Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) in Germany. This species is susceptible to Bsal and strictly protected under Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive. While T. cristatus is declining in the Bsal-hotspot Germany, it remains to be answered if the salamander plague is one of the leading drivers. By asking five key questions we review the available information with the goal of providing a baseline for further research. In two investigated newt communities, Bsal-prevalence was found to be considerably high, with 75–89% of newts being infected, reaching the highest peaks in spring. Later in the year, some T. cristatus were apparently able to clear their Bsal infection, even when individual infection load was previously high. Although we observed mortality of infected specimens and declines in populations with Bsal, declines are also seen outside known Bsal regions. Thus, it appears that the Bsal epidemic is not exclusively responsible for the species’ current status. With this, Bsal poses a yet poorly-understood threat to Northern Crested Newt survival, making further research on pathogen/host interactions and long-term survival indispensable to fulfil our legal responsibility of conserving this emblematic species.

Key words. Caudata, Salamandridae, amphibian crisis, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans, Bsal, chytrid fungus, conservation, decline, emerging infectious disease, population monitoring.

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