Monday, January 31, 2005

The Life Aquatic

So many NAS Species alerts came up today, I thought maybe someone dumped the contents of his entire fishtank near Big Branch Bayou in Louisiana. Turns out a fish farm sprung a leak or two:

In some of the above cases, several specimens were collected at the site, and at some sites the fish were noted as being established. The reports don't indicate who the potential culprit was or how this happened.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Restoration Ecology

Having been bombarded with invasions since 2002, the ISW's had a bit of a facelift. It will be interesting to see if the addition of new greenery will prevent future introductions from taking root. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: Antarctica

You might be thinking that there is not much to post about invasive species in Antarctica...and you'd be right. Unfortunately last summer two scientists made a discovery that invalidated every scientific paper and newspaper article that ever said "...on every continent except Antarctica." Seems the North Atlantic spider crab (Hyas araneus) was found far from home, all way down on the Antarctic Peninsula. Read the article abstract here or read a summary on page 7, Issue 16 of the Ballast Water News (.pdf).

Friday, January 28, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: Asia

BBC News is reporting that Hong Kong is on a "Red Ant Alert" after red fire ants (Solenopsis invicta) were found in anthills in a rural part of the country. The discovery had led to a nationwide hunt for the stinging South American insects, and the increased scrutiny of imports is holding up shipments of potted plants that are popular gifts during the upcoming lunar new year celebrations. Read more at

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: Europe

Manchester Online has this story about an art exhibit gone wrong. Artist Kerry Morrison designed a vending machine, on display in a U.K. gallery, that dispenses Himalayan balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) seeds. An environmental organization called Red Rose Forest is outraged, noting that the artist is encouraging the spread of a known invasive plant. Kerry hopes that her piece will cause the public to think about the impact they have on the environment, and notes "Only 200 of all plant species in Britain are indigenous so when does an alien species become native and does it really matter in a globalised, multi-cultural world?" At least she put some thought into it. Maybe her next project could be a machine that vends gloves and gardening shears.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: South America

Here in the U.S. we don't hear enough about invasive species problems in other parts of the world, especially in South America. So your homework for today is to check out the website of the Horus Institute ("Instituto Hórus"), a group dedicated to studying biological invasions in Brazil. There's a lot of content here: photos, reports, scientific papers - take your pick. There will be a pop quiz on Monday :-)

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days - North America

In an admitted publicity stunt, government officials in the Western U.S. are attempting to have the northern snakehead (Channa argus) declared as an endangered species. According to this story at Hometown Annapolis, the group is applying to get an invasive fish listed as endangered in order to draw attention to their claim that the Endangered Species Act infringes on the rights of private property owners. Hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn't have to waste too much money and time on this one.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: Australia (Alternate Title = Demon Seed)

In an effort to try to close a loophole that currently allows the importation of the seeds of over 4000 plant species into Australia, officials are speeding up a review process that wasn't scheduled to end until late 2006. According to this report from The Age, the hope is that most of these species, known weeds in other parts of the world, will be removed from the white list, meaning that any of them would be subject to a strict risk assessment before being allowed into the country.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Around the World in 7 Days: Africa

In Kenya's Lake Nakuru National Park thousands of mammals are once again in trouble, and this time invasive plants are being blamed. According to this story from, the park is overloaded with non-native invasives as well as native weeds like the camphor bush (Tarconanthus camphoratus). But the real issue may be the need for better park management. There is currently no control plan for the park's grazing mammals, whose populations go through boom cycles that decimate native plant populations and lead to soil erosion and other land disturbance.

Double bonus points to for using the camphor bush's scientific and Kiswahili name.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

If They Mated

As reported by, scientists are now suggesting that there may be two or even three strains of the organism that causes "sudden oak death" (Phytophthora ramosum). There is some concern over the possible consequences if the strains come into contact with each other and engage in sexual reproduction. Some researchers are suggesting the U.S. needs stricter quarantines on host plants, including relegating the shipment of nursery stock to the transport of seeds and cell cultures.

As I learned from one of my students last fall, the pathogen that causes SOD is not a true fungus as was once implied, and the "death" that results when a plant is infected with the pathogen is neither sudden not directly caused by the infection. So I'd like to suggest a new common name: "Oak Infection Leading Eventually to Death" or "OILED" for short. :-)

Friday, January 21, 2005

To List or not to List

As reported by, there's a bit of a political mess developing in Japan with regards to the largemouth bass (Micropterus sp., also called black bass). After a committee working on Japan's Invasive Alien Species Act (.pdf) announced it needed an additional six months to deliberate about whether to list the North American fish as invasive, the Environment Minister stepped in and convinced the committee that the fish should indeed be listed. The move, which clears the way for eradication plans, has angered sports fishing groups that don't consider the fish to be a problem.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Frog Politics

Several ISW readers emailed about the latest in Hawaii's coqui (Eleutherdactylus coqui) saga. CNN is reporting that the mayor of Hawaii County, Harry Kim, has asked the state for $2 million in funding to implement a management plan to deal with the noisy amphibians. He is also planning to repeat a request to the Governor of Hawaii to declare a state of emergency over the frog infestation, which would make it easier to get funding. Mayor Kim previously declared a state of emergency for his county last April. You can read more about the coqui from the ISW by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Kudzu was Here

Jack Anthony has put together an amazing online photo journal of kudzu (Pueraria montana) doing its invasive thing. See it covering signs, buses, and even entire houses.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in a link to this cool site.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Fur Bearers is reporting that this Wednesday, lucky members of Maryland's Eastern Shore Nutria Education Consortium will receive their "professionally mounted stuffed nutria." Whether this is an educational move, or some kind of bizarre warrior ritual, I am not sure. But I have to say the photo that accompanies the article looks fairly suspicious :-). The nutria (Myocastor coypus) are being donated by the Maryland Nutria Project.

Monday, January 17, 2005

New in the Literature

Recently published journal articles:

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Say Something

The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently soliciting public comments regarding the regulations covering the import of plants as nursery stock. As they note, right now anything that has the proper paperwork and is found to be pest-free gets in. Apparently APHIS is willing to consider making these regulations stricter, and even mentions creating a black list of species that will be banned until they can be properly assessed. Considering the current political climate, which seems to be very pro-business, this move by the USDA is very surprising to me. Anyone wishing to comment needs to do so by March 10, 2005.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Eating Autumn Olive II

Friday night was the annual New England Botanical Club potluck/show-and-tell, and this year we were lucky enough to have Russ Cohen in attendance. Russ, author of the book "Wild Plants I Have Known…and Eaten," brought along some autumn olive fruit leather (Elaeagnus umbellata) to the potluck (photo below). Consensus was that it was quite good - perhaps the birds will have some human competition next fall when the fruits ripen. Later, Russ joined other club members for the slide show, showing us a number of other invasive plants that are good to eat. One I hadn't heard about was black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), Russ noted its flowers were quite tasty. Curious ISW readers may also want to check out the original Eating Autumn Olive post from last year.

photo of autumn olive fruit leather

Friday, January 14, 2005

A Shocking Discovery

Plans for an underwater electric fence to prevent Asian carp from entering the Great Lakes system may be in jeopardy after commercial shippers raised concerns about the safety of their ships. As reported by The Chicago Tribune, there was an incident in 2002 where crew members spotted an electrical arc when their barges entered the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. (Um, 2002? Why is this coming up a month before the new barrier is set to be turned on?)

Thanks to the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers website for posting about this story.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Euro Trash

CSIRO has a press release out about the threat of the European wasp (Vespula germanica) in Southern Australia. Researchers are concerned about the effect of the wasps, who rear large numbers of insect-fed offspring each year, on native insect biodiversity.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Tangled Bank

The latest edition of the Tangled Bank is here, with an ISW post firmly rooted in spot #2 (and aiming to invade spots 1-5 by the end of the week of course :-) ). If you haven't heard of it, Tangled Bank is a bi-weekly collection of author-recommended posts covering a wide variety of science topics.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The Eagles Have Crash-Landed

Hydrilla as a vector? That's what scientists say they have found in South Carolina. As reported by The State, an unknown cyanobacteria was discovered growing on the undersides of the leaves of the invasive aquatic plant hydrilla (Hydrilla verticillata). Biologists recently identified it as the species Hapalosiphon fontinalis, unknown to the region, and linked it with the spread of avian vacuolar myelinopathy, a disease that has killed dozens of waterfowl and eagles (who prey on waterfowl). The current hypothesis is that the cyanobacteria causes illness through the production of a chemical that acts as a neurotoxin in birds when they eat hydrilla.

Monday, January 10, 2005

The Terminator

Chris C. passed along this note from The Sacramento Bee, listing the Interagency Aquatic Invasive Species Council among a slew of other California boards Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed to eliminate. At first I was outraged, but then I searched Google for more information about the council...not much to be found. Turns out the council, whose establishment was dictated in the California Fish and Game code back in 2001, never got funded, and was never officially formed. As a result, development of the management plan for aquatic invasives that they were charged with creating is behind schedule. The council was recommended for elimination in the California Performance Review (go here and scroll way down) with the expectation that invasive species management should be the responsibility of a restructured Department of Natural Resources.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Suck it up

ABC News has this report about the invasion of Asian ladybugs (Harmonia axyridis) in Texas. A gardener interviewed for the story notes that so many of the insects have entered his house, he uses a vacuum to clean them up. Apparently they're also annoying to golfers, who have lady beetles landing all over them as they traverse the course - Don't they know it's good luck? (For Amanda :-) )

Friday, January 07, 2005

Kangaroo Jacked

In an odd article from The Capital Times, a reporter tells the story of an escaped kangaroo...and some feral hogs, and a hippopotamus to boot. What makes the report interesting is the information about just how easy it is to buy your very own red kangaroo (Macropus rufus) in the U.S. Which is maybe not such a big deal in Wisconsin, where the escaped critter was found, but could this be an issue in some of our more southern states?

Thursday, January 06, 2005

News Flash: Invasive Fish NOT "Wreaking Havoc"...

Interesting piece in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel about the fact that the walking catfish (Clarias batrachus) hasn't lived up to the hype. The fish, whose ability to breath air and walk on land is reminescent of the infamous snakehead, was first found in Florida in the 1960s. Populations boomed over the next decade but then declined over the following 20 years. Scientists are not happy about the presence of this species but note that a negative impact on the environment has yet to be identified. Bonus points to the Sun-Sentinel for using the fish's scientific name and for posting a photo of dead walking catfish preserved in a jar.

Thanks to ANS News for posting a blurb about this story.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

That Stinks

Hey Oregonians - next time someone accuses you of delivering an "unpleasant odor" to the room, no need to blame it on the dog. Instead, tell your accuser it must be an infestation of brown marmorated stink bugs. Seems the smelly insects showed up in Oregon last summer, and is reporting that the state Department of Agriculture has issued an alert (.pdf) so that all residents will be on the lookout (smellout?). The brown marmorated stink bug (Halyomorpha halys), which has only been known in the U.S. for a few years, is one of those pesky home invaders that will sneak into your house by the hundreds looking for a winter hideout.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Phish Pheremones

Sea Grant's News page has this article about a scientist who has found a chemical attractant that works against the Eurasian ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus), an invasive fish in the Great Lakes region. The chemical, known as 20-beta-S, is released by female ruffes, and causes males to arrive from great distances and basically act like teenagers with spring fever :-). Such an attractant, if mass-produced, holds great potential as a way of managing and perhaps eradicating invasive populations. Dr. Peter Sorenson, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, headed up the team that discovered the chemical, and is hoping to find similar compounds for other fish invaders.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Enter The Rat King

USA Today, among others, is reporting that Gambian pouch rats (Cricetomys gambianus) have invaded the Florida Keys. A Florida scientist proudly (kidding) noted that this is the first documented naturalized population of these oversized rodents in the U.S. The ISW first reported on the pouch rats, as vectors of monkeypox, back in June 2003.

Update: Those aren't invasive species, those are land mine detectors! Maybe this will be a boon for the U.S. after all :-).

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Squash and Sniff

Officials in Christchurch, New Zealand have gotten such a good response to warning about Argentine ants (Linepithema humile), they're a bit overwhelmed. The majority of the calls have led investigators to relatively harmless native species. Scoop is reporting that, in an attempt to reduce the number of false alarms, they have empowered residents with an identification test: squash an ant or two and sniff the air. The native Darwin's ants (Doleromyrma darwiana) give off a pungent odor, while Argentine ants are unscented. Somehow I can't see them doing the same type of kill test to say, identify invasive birds or other charismatic megafauna.

Thanks to Val C. for sending in the link to this story.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Pompous Grass?

What would California do without all that invasive pampas grass (Cortaderia spp.)? Surely the Tournament of Roses Parade would suffer, without the key ingredient in making authentic-looking animal fur? :-) Parade hosts noted that some of the plants used in decorating are gathered locally.