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Tuesday
Apr032012

Animals Where They Shouldn’t Be: Invasive Species Around the World

Invasive species are a big problem. Intentional or not, the introduction of non-native species can have hugely significant consequences, throwing whole ecosystems out-of-balance. Today Into the Wild looks at some of the most interesting and drastic cases of animals where they shouldn’t be.

Image courtesy of brian.gratwicke

Snakehead Fish

The snakehead is a pretty amazing animal. Not only is it able to breath air via its suprabranchial or labrynth organ, it can also survive for up to 4 days on land as long as it is wet. Certain species within the snakehead family (Channidae) have been known to ‘walk’ up to ¼ mile attempting to find a new water source.

The northern snakehead (Channa argus) is native to Asia, in China, Russia, North Korea and South Korea. However, the species has been widely introduced around the world as a food source, including parts of the USA. Its status as a top-level predator combined with the ability to reproduce at an alarming rate mean that native species are significantly threatened by its presence. It is now known to be established (breeding) in river systems such as the Potomac River running along the mid-Atlantic coast of the USA.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Burmese Python

Native to the Southern and South East Asia, the Burmese python can be both semi-aquatic or tree-dwelling. It is one of the largest snakes in the world, usually growing up to about 12ft in length, but sometimes significantly bigger.

Their accidental introduction into the Everglades in Florida, USA has highlighted the damage that invasive species can cause to an ecosystem when no natural predators exist to limit its spread. Thought to have resulted from the release of unwanted pets, or the destruction of a breeding facility during hurricane Andrew, the Burmese python has thrived in this area and has been known to eat not only endangered bird species, but also the native American alligators.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Cane Toad

The cane toad is an example of a species intentionally introduced as part of a pest control strategy. Following the success of its introduction in Puerto Rico to control a beetle infestation amongst sugar cane, the cane toad was brought to many Pacific countries.

However, the animal’s introduction has proven costly to many native species. Not only can this large toad prey on many other animals, such as rodents, small birds, invertebrates and other amphibians, its toxic skin is also a major threat to predatory species, meaning that it does not have many animals to look out for. It is considered a pest in most of its non-native environments.

Image courtesy of Hilary Chambers

Stoat/Ermine/Short-tailed Weasel

This cute looking mammal, native to North America and Eurasia is considered one of the worst invasive species around. This is due to its intelligent and fearless hunting methods, eating small mammals and birds.

It was introduced to New Zealand and has been shown to be largely responsible for significant loss of kiwi chicks.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Asian Tiger Mosquito

This disease spreading insect is thought to have spread to around 28 countries outside of its native habitat. Getting their name from the striped pattern, this potentially deadly species is known to feed not only during darkness, like most other types of mosquito, but also during the day.

The unparalleled spread of the Asian Tiger Mosquito from its native South East Asia is thought to be due to the international tyre trade, with rain-water filled tyres providing the perfect environment for the insect to breed.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Nile Perch

The Nile perch was introduced to Lake Victoria in the 1950’s. Despite being native to many lakes and rivers in Africa, Lake Victoria has suffered greatly due to its introduction, with hundreds of native species going extinct, or nearly extinct.

The effect of the introduction of the Nile perch was documented in the Academy Award-nominated documentary Darwin’s Nightmare, which controversially linked the invasive species’ with the import of weapons into the region.

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    The Gap Year Blog - Into the Wild - Animals Where They Shouldn’t Be: Invasive Species Around the World

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