Snakes in the Eastern United States are suffering from a deadly fungal infection.
An infectious fungal illness found in snakes is apparently expanding rapidly across eastern America, posing a serious threat to native snake populations.
Snake fungal disease [SFD] has recently been “confirmed in multiple species of snakes,” according to a report released by the United States Geological Survey [USGS] on Friday. While the skin illness has only been found in snakes so far, it might have a huge influence on their diminishing populations in the United States.
Crusty or ulcerated scales, nodules [abnormal bumps]under the skin, abnormal molting, white opaque cloudiness of the eyes [not linked with molting], and facial disfiguration that can be quite severe, resulting to emaciation and death, are all symptoms of SFD, according to the USGS. “Many snake populations are already on the decline as a result of habitat loss and declining prey populations, and SFD may hasten this process.”
As the fungus spreads throughout the body, it normally stays hidden beneath the scales. In more extreme cases, though, it can permeate the body and produce a systemic fungal infection.
In 2015, scientists discovered the fungus that causes SFD, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola. According to the BBC, the fungus has been present in North America for far longer, and was discovered to be potentially deadly to snakes in 2006. It was so hazardous that it reduced the population of timber rattlesnakes from 40 to only 20 individuals.
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Researchers incorporated information on snake species known to be impacted by this disease into a neural network in a 2017 study published in the journal Science Advances. The neural network would ideally collect the information about the snakes, separate and compare their diverse traits, and identify the aspects that the snakes shared to assist them figure out what was causing the infection.
However, the network was unable to identify a single element. “Then we figured it out,” Frank Burbrink, associate curator of the American Museum of Natural History’s department of herpetology, told This website at the time. “All of these snakes are at risk of contracting it.”
Burbink declared it a “call to arms, for people,” calling it a “worst-case scenario.” This is a condensed version of the information.