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Viral suspect for amphibian decline traced to human spread through bait

the west and it is a history that suggests in its patterns that the viruses have been moved around in less than traditional ways probably in anthropogenic ways," said Collins. "Bait is one of the ways it is probably getting around.

"We found evidence for this specific virus in salamanders in bait stores in Phoenix and also evidence of it in axolotls (salamanders that remain in the larval gilled form) in the Indiana University colony that are shipped all over the world for biomedical research."

Whether the virus strain is lethal in its original Midwestern host populations is still not known, but it is lethal to tiger salamanders in the wild in the west.

"Bait stores collect their animals in the Midwest, for the most part Nebraska, West Texas, eastern New Mexico. We find virus that is molecularly indistinguishable from the bait stores in the wild in Colorado. Presumably it was shipped in from somewhere, perhaps Nebraska, into Colorado as bait. And imported bait is a big, multi-million dollar industry."

Though the effect of the virus on tiger salamanders is only a small part of the overall issue of amphibian decline, Collins thinks the team's current findings have a larger significance and may provide a method for putting together other pieces of the puzzle.

"This tiger salamander system is really a model for looking at the emergence of these diseases," he said.


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Contact: James Hathaway
hathaway@asu.edu
480-965-6375
Arizona State University
8-Sep-2004


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