Invasive species are found around the globe, and some of them seem almost unstoppable. But which are the worst?
How Invasive Species Work:
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Over the years, humans have imported other animals from all over the world. Sometimes it’s because a species is so cute we _have_ to take it out of its natural environment. Other times it’s because we need them to solve a problem we can’t… like eating a bunch of annoying bugs. But if the species doesn’t have a natural predator in their new home, they can become problems on their own.
Like CARP - Imagine me throwing a bowling ball at your head. That’s what it feels like when an Asian carp leaps out of the water and smashes into your face. They weigh 100 pounds (45.4 kilograms) and can jump as high as 10 feet (3 meters). Motorboats scare the heck out of them, so it’s not uncommon for hundreds of them to suddenly bound through the air. So why would we bring these native Asian fish to America? Because they’re really good at clearing algae out of catfish ponds. They’ve spread rapidly across the country, from Arkansas to Wisconsin. Now carp are poised to ruin the $7.5 billion fishing industry, so we’re poisoning rivers and building electric underwater fences to kill them off. Ironically, carp are rare in China, so some fishermen are selling them back to be served as a delicacy.
And speaking of China: In 1882, Golden Bamboo was brought from China to Alabama to provide a natural “visual and sound barrier” for privacy. Like some kind of monster that grows up to 40 feet tall (12 meters) this bamboo overtakes everything as it spreads, destroying other plants and the homes they provide to local animals. As of 2010, the United States spends $138 billion a year to fight off these menacing plants.
Then there are RABBITS - Everyone supposes that bunnies are cute and harmless. But those twitchy little noses tell another tale. They’re only native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa, and yet rabbits are now on almost every continent. They reproduce very quickly, hence the whole “breed like rabbits” thing. They eat and burrow through everything, causing soil erosion and landscape damage. In 1859 a farmer brought 24 rabbits to Australia. Since then they’ve bred into the millions. This is how _brutal_ bunnies are… in 1950 Australia tried biological warfare and killed five hundred million rabbits. _But_ bunnies developed a resistance to the Myxomatosis virus and have replenished their millions lost for the next stage of their offensive campaign.
And don’t get me started on STARLINGS - Blame William Shakespeare for the infestation of European Starlings in the United States. In 1890, some fans of “the Bard” wanted North America to be home to every bird mentioned in his plays, so they released starlings into the wild. Now we’ve got 200 million of the things flying around in flocks of a million or more. They devastate our land, eat all our grapes, olives and cherries, and even eat the feed from troughs for livestock and poultry. Their flocks are so large they’ve even caused planes to crash.
And have you heard about CANE TOADS? They were imported to the U.S. and Australia to devour the insects that ruin sugarcane crops. They’ll eat almost any terrestrial animal and will fight them for territory. And they win too, because they secrete a toxin that can sicken and kill wildlife… and even humans. Our best hope against cane toads appears to be bio-engineering them so they only give birth to males, and can no longer reproduce.
Invasive species are clearly a problem all over the world. Which ones are currently infesting your area? Let us know in the comments below and for more What the Stuff factoids please click Subscribe. And if you want to learn more about animals, nature and annihilation, check us out at HowStuffWorks.com.
The downside to bio-engineering:
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