American Invasive Species Hall of Fame, Part 2


Sequels are rarely as good as the original. But here are five more invasive species for the American Invasive Species Hall of Fame.

You can see the top five from last week here.

Burmese python (Python bivittatus)

Native to Southeast Asia and one of the world’s largest snake species, the python became a hot (and legal) item in the pet trade in the mid-1990s. When snake lovers from South Florida realized their full-size python could be 12 feet long and 200 pounds or more, pet owners took what they felt was the merciful course of releasing the snakes to the friendly habitat of the Everglades.

With no predators and a ready diet of rodents, livestock, birds and possibly even a rare Florida panther, the Burmese python has established itself at the top of the Everglades food chain. In 2012, the US finally banned the import of pythons.

Record-breaking Everglades pythons have surpassed 18 feet and 400 pounds. They have been found far north of the Glades and along the Florida Panhandle. Despite well-organized python “roundups,” the snakes are likely permanent residents of Florida.

Zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)

The thumbnail-sized shellfish, first discovered in North America in Lake St. Clair, Michigan in 1988, is believed to have been carried in the ballast of a ship from its Caspian Sea home.

Zebra mussels prefer fast-moving water and often congregate at intake manifolds for factories, power plants, or municipal waterworks.

Once established, zebra mussels are difficult to remove. Constant inspections are required to avoid water supply interruption due to clogged pipes. Well established in the Great Lakes region, zebra mussels are pushing west in rivers and streams. They have also conquered parts of the Ohio and Tennessee river systems.

Asiatic carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix and several other subspecies)

Young Asian carp are sensitive to loud noises. An outboard motor sends the fish into a frenzy, breaking up to 10 feet out of the water.

Recognition: Regional Invasive Carp Coordinating Committee

In the generally unfunny world of invaders, Asian carp can offer a little comic relief.

Asian carp, the mainstay in some home aquariums, can outgrow their welcome at a maximum of nearly 20 pounds. Released into rivers and streams by aquarium owners, the carp quickly rose to the top of the food chains in sections of the Mississippi and Illinois river systems, where they quickly crowded out native species for grasses and plankton.

Also, in the 1970s, a fish farm in Arkansas added carp to rid their aquariums of algae. When the job was done, the carp were released into the wild.

Did I say they’re funny? Funny how?

Young carp are sensitive to loud noises. An outboard motor sends the fish in a frenzybreaking out of the water up to 10 feet.

Anglers’ long-standing prayer for fish to literally leap into your boat can come true with Asian carp.

There is a concerted effort to prevent the carp from overtaking the sizable commercial fisheries of the Great Lakes.

Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (Adelges tsugae)

First spotted near Richmond, Virginia in the 1950s, this tiny ball of white fur has a craving for eastern hemlock sap.

Over the next several decades, the adelgid’s range reached the hemlock populations of the Appalachian Mountains. Stately trees died from the tops down, and the undergrowth was also hit. Streams that were once kept cool by the shade of the huge trees are now boiling.

Eastern hemlocks range from Georgia to Maine and Nova Scotia and west to Wisconsin. The Adelgid haven’t quite caught up yet, but with no practical defenses, either natural or man-made, they’re on their way.

Brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis)

Amid the death and sorrow of World War II, there was a constant trade of almost anything to almost every corner of the Pacific. The brown tree snake probably traveled on cargo ships from its home in Indonesia to Guam.

See also: American Invasive Species Hall of Fame, Part 1

With no natural predators, brown tree snakes had a field day. Even iconic species like the flightless Guam Rail disappeared.

Once the last eggs were gone, the snakes had no trouble finding more food. They covered the island. Their four-foot bodies stretched from one power line to the next. The island’s electricity grid was powered by a WWII surplus generator. Brown tree snakes would interrupt Guam’s power every few weeks.

In addition to overrunning Guam, brown tree snakes are semi-aquatic and mildly venomous. There have been a few reported cases of snake bites in the toilet.


Our readers have made a few suggestions of their own.

Norwegian hemlock and Norwegian rats; wild pigs and wild domestic cats; mesquite, quagga clams; Asiatic Longhorn Beetles; Emerald Ash Drill; Mitten crabs and snails (giant and rose wolf).

But consider this: Several people have pointed out that with an unprecedented record of destruction of oceans, forests, skies and more, one species is by far the most destructive and destructive.


Contact Peter Dykstra at @pdykstra or [email protected] if you have suggestions for future invasive symbols.

.Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist. His Views do not necessarily reflect those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or the publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

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