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Author: Jennifer Forman Orth

Invading your brain since 2002.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Fear And Self-Loathing On NPR  

Want a chance to be heard on NPR? Science reporter John Nielsen is prepping a story for next week's news on the "five most loathed invasive species in the world." There are only two rules to follow here: 1) Be specific and 2) No diseases. I'd like to add a 3) No fair saying "humans" - we're too easy a target.

What would you put on the list? If you want to give John a piece of your mind, drop him a line at 202-513-2781 or email him at jnielsen AT npr DOT org. He's especially hoping to hear from scientists, but everyone is welcome to participate. If you're too shy to share with public radio, let's get a discussion started in the comments!

Here is my list, which was awfully hard to make, because I love all invasive species equally ;-). In no particular order:

  • Didymo (Didymosphenia geminata) - The spread of this freshwater aquatic algae is near impossible to detect or control. It's all over New Zealand and was recently discovered in the Northeastern USA. I cannot think of an invader that would make resource managers feel more helpless or frustrated, and anglers are certainly peeved as well.
  • Northern snakehead (Channa argus) - Hated widely because it is so charismatic, rather than for its impact. They've made two movies about this fish already!
  • Fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) - No one likes biting insects, especially ones that travel in packs.
  • Mute swan (Cygnus olor) - Only because the amount that this species is hated by the people charged with managing them and people concerned with their environmental impact is directly proportional to the amount that this species is loved by animal rights activists and those captivated by their aesthetic qualities.
  • The abominable feral kudzu hydrilla pig-carp. Okay, so this last one is a cop-out :-).

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From Singapore, it'd be:
1. the Javan Mynah (Acridotheres javanicus), which supplanted the earlier invasive Common Mynah (Acridotheres tristis) to become the most numerous bird locally.
2. the House Crow (Corvus splendens). Both the mynahs and crow have burgeoned at the likely expense of native avians like the magpie robin.
3. Red eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). It has probably outcompeted native chelonians, restricting them to a few pristine forested streams.
4. Guppy (Lebistes reticulatus). Vivipary probably helps this little fish outbreed local cyprinids.
5. Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus). Another pre-war introduction that flourishes in local canals and drains.

By Blogger budak, at 11/17/2007 02:14:00 AM  

Hmm. Local perspective here:
Garlic Mustard
Mute Swan
Buckthorn (Common & Glossy)
House Sparrow
and either Carp or European earthworms

By Anonymous Nuthatch, at 11/17/2007 10:18:00 AM  

Too bad no pests and pathogens: I'd put chestnut blight high on that list.

1) Brown Tree snake
2) Kudzu
3) harlequin ladybug (soon, at any rate)
4. Zebra Mussel
5. Spotted Knapweed

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at 11/17/2007 04:35:00 PM  

These are great lists so far, though we'd all like to know the geographical perspective the comments are coming from, so post a location if you dare!

I've been thinking that the emerald ash borer/Asian longhorned beetle must be pretty high up there as well. I can think of nothing more depressing than being told that an invasive boring beetle has been discovered in my neck of the woods, with current control methods being limited to complete removal of all nearby ash/maple trees, respectively. Hello beetles, goodbye trees!!!

By Blogger Jennifer Forman Orth, at 11/18/2007 01:13:00 AM  

From a New England point of view:

1-Hemlock woolly Adelgid
2-Zebra Muscle
3-Mute Swan
4-Garlic Mustard
5-Is it fair to put feral cats on the list...because I just did

By Blogger Brian, at 11/19/2007 09:02:00 AM  

From the Mid-Atlantic...

1. Ailanthus
2. Japanese barberry
3. Garlic mustard
4. Gypsy moth
5. Gingko

Mute swans are pretty destructive, but I don't hate them since I don't encounter them much myself. I would put Canada goose and white-tailed deer on the list, but since they are native I am not sure if they count - even if they are the biggest non-human habitat destroyers around here. I'm not sure if gingko is really invasive, but I hate it either way.

By Blogger John, at 11/19/2007 04:58:00 PM  

I agree with Jennifer's comment about geographical perspective, as the question contains the qualifier "in the world." What I have trouble considering is the "most loathed" part of it. My thesaurus gives synonyms of loathsome as hateful, disgusting, despicable, and repugnant, among others. So what are the most hated, disgusting, and despicable invasive species in the world? I think my answers would have to be animals:
1. Norway rat
2. Black rat
3. House fly
4. German cockroach
5. Cat flea

How invasive some of these are can be debated, but I think worldwide, these must be some of the most loathsome organisms on the planet.

By Blogger ecomike, at 11/20/2007 04:29:00 PM  

There is one particular German cockroach that crawled out of the bathroom sink drain in my Boston apartment that may be the most loathed insect on the least by me. You just don't do that kind of a thing to a person at 3 in the morning, especially a person not wearing her glasses!

By Blogger Jennifer Forman Orth, at 11/20/2007 04:36:00 PM  

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