What would you do if you stumbled across a 20-foot Burmese python on a trip to Florida, or a murder hornet in Washington state? Most of us would freak out if we saw the weirdest invasive species in nature. After all, you don't expect to find hippos on a trip to Colombia, or South American coypu swimming in an Irish river.
While some invasive species sneak into their new homes and blend in, others stick out in a big way. Just compare all the invasive animals in Florida to the European starling, an invasive species known as Shakespeare's bird, which blends in even while it destroys ecosystems.
Invasive species cause huge problems. They scarf up resources that should go to native animals and, without natural predators, their populations boom. Many invasive species were brought into new habitats for the dumbest reasons. Exotic pet owners, traders in illicit substances, and sugar cane farmers have all messed with nature - and now the rest of us are paying the price.
It's one of the most damaging invasive species in the world. Massive Burmese pythons have taken over the Florida Everglades. The invading 20-foot pythons gobble up the small mammals that live in the Everglades, harming the ecosystem.
The problem started in the 1980s, when exotic pet traders sold the pythons in Miami. As the snakes grew, some owners simply released them into the wild. And Hurricane Andrew made things worse in 1992, when the destruction of a local python breeding facility released snakes into the swamps.
Burmese pythons aren't going anywhere soon. Female snakes lay as many as 100 eggs each year, and the python has no natural predators in Florida.Out of place?
Murder hornets seem pretty invasive in any environment. Also known as the Asian giant hornet, the murder hornet is the largest hornet in the world.
In 2019, authorities in Washington state and British Columbia both spotted the invasive hornets in the wild. The hornets decapitate honeybees, posing a major threat to the natural environment.
They are also bad for the economy and public health, since their venom is more toxic than a bee and they have a longer stinger.Out of place?
When Australian farmers imported cane toads in the 1930s, they thought it was a great idea. The toads would eat the cane beetles who were eating the sugar cane. But cane toads quickly overtook native species to become a major problem.
The original population of 3,000 cane toads in Australia exploded into the millions. The toads gobble up insects, harming native animals and disrupting the ecosystem. On top of that, cane toads are poisonous. Dogs who lick or nibble on a cane toad can perish.
Cane toads plague other parts of the Pacific, as well. In Hawaii, cane toads poison as many as 50 dogs each year. And they can even claim the lives of humans.Out of place?
Snakehead Fish In The United States
It's been called fishzilla and Frankenfish. The northern snakehead, native to China, has popped up in Florida, Maryland, California, and Massachusetts.
Snakeheads aren't exactly like other fish. In fact, they can slip out of the water and cross land to infest lakes, rivers, and estuaries. They also grow teeth and lay thousands of eggs during their spawning cycle.
How did the snakehead reach the US? One captured nest was traced back to a man who bought live snakeheads in New York to feed his sister. But when she got grossed out, he released them into the wild.Out of place?