Skip to content

A brutal killer of the Chinese giant salamander

By on May 2, 2013 in Amphibians, Chinese Giant Salamander, EDGE Fellows, EDGE Updates

Zhou Feng’s EDGE Fellowship project focuses on diagnosing pathogens that threaten the Chinese giant salamander. In her latest blog, she tell us about the deadly Ranavirus.

In 2010 and 2011, outbreaks of the disease Ranavirus occurred several times in farmed Chinese giant salamanders in Hanzhong County, Shanxi Province, China. Sadly, a large number of deaths occurred as a result of these outbreaks. The sick Chinese giant salamanders showed a loss of appetite; a curvature of the spine; s-type swimming; lethargy; swollen areas on the head and limbs; and skin ulcerations. The mortality rate of animals showing these symptoms was very high, with death occurring within 5-14 days.

In the photos you can see skin ulceration on a sick Chinese giant salamander and a lethargic salamander sleeping in the sunshine – which is a clear divergence from their natural behaviour of liking dark and being afraid if light.

Pathological and PCR analysis was used to prove that Ranavirus was the cause of these symptoms. Ranavirus is one of five genera of viruses within the family Iridoviridae, which are a kind of nucleocytoplasmic large DNA viruses. Ranavirus is the only genus within Iridoviridae that includes viruses that are infectious to amphibians, reptiles and fish. They are an emerging group of closely related dsDNA (double stranded DNA) viruses which cause systemic infections in a wide variety of wild and cultured fresh fishes and saltwater fishes.

Now we are working on detecting and monitoring this virus in Shanxi Province .We hope that our work can contribute to the effective protection of the Chinese giant salamander.

To learn more about Zhou Feng’s work, please visit the project page: “A sustainable future for Chinese giant salamanders”.