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Deadly fungus may be infecting snakes worldwide

A new study warns that a potentially deadly disease caused by the fungus Ophidiomyces ophidiodiicola, which already affects several species of snakes in the United States, can strike snake populations across the globe. The disease, known as snake fungal disease, has been found in 23 wild species in the United States, including ratsnakes, milksnakes, gartersnakes and viperids, as well as in three European species. It causes fast-spreading lesions on the head and body. Though it can dissipate after the animal molts, rapid shedding and other changes to the animal’s daily habit in response to the infection -- such as increased basking -- can put snakes at a risk for other dangers, including predation, exposure and starvation. Researchers used an artificial neural network to search for potential common traits between snakes already infected by the disease and those that might be susceptible in the future. The results showed that snakes infected with the disease shared no notable evolutionary, physical or ecological traits indicating that all snakes may be vulnerable.

Visit Website | Image credit: USGS National Wildlife Health Center/D.E. Green