ArachnoVixen AKA Dream Crusher AKA Heartbreaker
- Sep 14, 2009
Still chasing my unicorn. Unfortunately, I think this disease is also impacting other species:
I sent my pictures to USGS and they put me in touch with a researcher at the University of Wisconsin. He sent me the following reply:
Thank you for sending along your observation and pictures. We cannot diagnose Snake Fungal Disease without having actual samples from the animal, but the signs on that snake do look consistent with the disease. In addition to the lumps on the animal's body, it also looks like the lower jaw may be infected, which is common in many snakes with this disease. The other thing that I find very interesting is the color of the lesions on the body. The typical coloration in this species is the result of a mixture of yellow and blue pigments (there actually are no green pigments in the skin). When green snakes die, they turn blue because the yellow pigment deteriorates much more quickly than the blue pigment. I suspect that the skin in those infected areas is dying which is giving the lesions the blue coloration.
As far as the other snakes in the area are concerned, I would keep an eye out for additional cases. However, I would not be too alarmed just yet. We are finding that these infections are quite widespread, but may only be having impacts on populations under certain circumstances (we are currently studying this). We are not sure whether most snakes eventually overcome the infections or go on to develop more severe disease. It is good to know that the snake you observed was otherwise acting healthy. I have seen snakes with less severe infections acting lethargic.
If you encounter freshly dead snakes with signs of the disease (which I realize almost never happens), feel free to contact me and our lab may be able to test the animal. We can also sometimes test biopsies (if their collection is coordinated through the appropriate state agency and conducted by a veterinarian) and even shed skins if they contain signs of infection (the scabs or thickened areas of skin are usually obvious on the shed skins).
His comments on pigmentation were interesting. That explains why the lesions on green snakes would look markedly different than those pictured on the USGS site. I guess I won't jump to any conclusions just yet. It was just alarming to find two snakes suffering from some form of infection within a short period of time.
That's all quite interesting, very unfortunate for the local snake population, but interesting. I had no idea about the pigment in the skin of green snakes, that's pretty neat.
I will continue to watch, and wait, for you to find your unicorn You've definitely got me slightly obsessed with it too now, haha.