An endangered species of rattlesnake faces extinction from a deadly fungus

While most of us wouldn’t shed any tears over a dead rattlesnake the fact is that they are a necessary part of our world as they help to keep rats, mice, and other vermin under control so when scientists found four dead rattlesnakes in Illinois they began to express worry about what this could portend.

You see these weren’t just any run of the mill type of rattlesnakes but rather the massasauga rattler, a species of the rattlesnake family that is already on the endangered species list. Then on top of that they found out that the snakes had been killed by a deadly fungus that had previously only been seen in captive animals.

Called Chrysosporium it has been known by scientists for many years but this is the first time that they have seen it jump from captured animals to a population of endangered rattlesnakes.

The first cases of infection were noted in 2008, when researchers — who were monitoring a population of massasauga rattlesnakes (pictured up top) near Carlyle, Illinois — encountered a trio of the reptiles with heads covered in gruesome ulcers, and swelling that extended throughout their fangs, skin and skeletal muscles. A fourth snake was later recovered, as well, but all of them perished just weeks after their discovery.

via io9

If this fungal infection progresses through the snake population the same way that a very similar, and equally deadly, fungal infection that has been decimating the bat population in sixteen states and four Canadian provinces the scientist who are monitoring the situation are rightly concerned about the survivability of the massasauga rattler.