Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Rare fungus kills endangered rattlesnakes in southern Illinois

Date:
February 21, 2012
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
A small population of rattlesnakes that already is in decline in southern Illinois faces a new and unexpected threat in the form of a fungus rarely seen in the wild, researchers report. The finding matches reports of rattlesnake deaths in the northeast United States.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake normally spends spring in shallow wetlands and summer in drier upland areas.
Credit: Photo courtesy Matthew Allender

A small population of rattlesnakes that already is in decline in southern Illinois faces a new and unexpected threat in the form of a fungus rarely seen in the wild, researchers report.

The eastern massasauga rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus catenatus), a candidate for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act, suffers from habitat loss and environmental stresses wherever it is found, said University of Illinois comparative biosciences visiting instructor and wildlife veterinarian Matthew Allender, who led the health investigation. Long-term population studies of the snake -- in Illinois and elsewhere -- had never turned up evidence of debilitating fungal infections. But in 2008, biologists studying the snake reported to Allender that they had found three sick snakes in a park in southern Illinois, all with disfiguring lesions on their heads. The snakes died within three weeks of their discovery. A fourth snake with a similar syndrome was discovered in the same park in the spring of 2010.

Allender conducted necropsies on the snakes and identified the pathogen that had killed them: C hrysosporium, a fungus that plagues portions of the pet reptile industry but is not normally seen in the wild, he said.

"Chrysosporium causes disease in bearded dragons and in other snakes and it's a bad bug," Allender said. "We see it in captive animals worldwide, but we don't typically find it in free-ranging animals."

Chrysosporium also is emerging as a dangerous infection in humans with weakened immune systems, he said.

Shortly after he first presented his findings at a meeting of the Fish and Wildlife Service, Allender heard from other biologists about similar infections in snakes in the northeast United States.

"They seem to be having a similar problem in timber rattlesnakes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts," Allender said. Although biologists have sporadically identified Chrysosporium in those snakes, the symptoms they report -- facial swelling and ulcers and malformations of the jaw -- are the same, he said. These infections also occurred only within the last five years.

"Fungal pathogens have been increasingly associated with free-ranging epidemics in wildlife, including the well-known effects of Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis on frog populations globally and white-nosed syndrome in bats," Allender wrote in a December 2011 report in Emerging Infectious Diseases. "Both of these diseases cause widespread and ongoing deaths in these populations that seriously threaten biodiversity across the United States."

Allender sees this new occurrence of a fungal infection in endangered snakes as a "yellow flag" that warrants more study.

"Wildlife diseases and human health are not that different," he said. "And often wildlife are our window into a weakened environment that leads to disease in both people and animals."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Matthew C. Allender, Michael Dreslik, Sarah Wylie, Christopher Phillips, Daniel B. Wylie, Carol Maddox, Martha A. Delaney, Michael J. Kinsel. Chrysosporiumsp. Infection in Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 2011; 17 (12): 2383 DOI: 10.3201/eid1712.110240

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Rare fungus kills endangered rattlesnakes in southern Illinois." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221151543.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012, February 21). Rare fungus kills endangered rattlesnakes in southern Illinois. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221151543.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Rare fungus kills endangered rattlesnakes in southern Illinois." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120221151543.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Conservationists Face Uphill PR Battle With New Shark Rules

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) — New conservation measures for shark fishing face an uphill PR battle in the fight to slow shark extinction. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Shocker: Journalists Are Utterly Addicted To Coffee

Newsy (Sep. 13, 2014) — A U.K. survey found that journalists consumed the most amount of coffee, but that's only the tip of the coffee-related statistics iceberg. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

'Magic Mushrooms' Could Help Smokers Quit

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — In a small study, researchers found that the majority of long-time smokers quit after taking psilocybin pills and undergoing therapy sessions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Spinosaurus Could Be First Semi-Aquatic Dinosaur

Newsy (Sep. 11, 2014) — New research has shown that the Spinosaurus, the largest carnivorous dinosaur, might have been just as well suited for life in the water as on land. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:  

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile iPhone Android Web
    Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins