Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tasmanian Evil

The Department of Primary Industries, Water & Environment in Australia recently announced that a sometimes deadly frog disease has been discovered in Tasmania. The disease, caused by a chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis), is thought to have come from South Africa, though it has been known in Australia since the late 1970s [source]. Afflicted frogs show damage to a protective keratin-based layer of their skin that could inhibit their ability to breath or take in water.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Oh My Darlin'

The Tallahassee Democrat is reporting that Florida, California and Arizona have all banned the import of Clementine oranges from South Africa. This follows the discovery of live larvae of the false codling moth (Cryptophlebia leucotreta) in Clementine crates at the California border and dead larvae on Florida's Clementine imports. U.S. officials are extremely cautious about letting this agricultural pest become established in this country, to the point where the Agricultural Research Service is proactively developing management protocols to be used in South Africa. Go ARS!

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Pointed Remark

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blogcast of "new discoveries" to point out that yesterday's main segment on the NPR show "On Point" was "Nature's Invaders." The featured guest was Alan Burdick, editor of Discover Magazine and author of "Out of Eden: An Odyssey of Ecological Invasion." Alan was joined by Dr. Edwin Grosholz, a marine biologist at U.C. Davis. It was an interesting interview, nothing controversial, and in case you missed it, you can get the audio here.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Q Continuum

Farmers in Florida and Texas, among other places, are being urged to keep an eye out for the new biotype of the sweetpotato whitefly (Bemisia tabaci Biotype 'Q'). While this whitefly species has been known in the US for over a century, it was not noted as causing problems for growers until the mid 1980's, when Biotype 'B' was discovered. The 'Q' Biotype, first discovered in California this past March, is thought to originate from the Mediterranean. Contrary to what you might think after hearing its common name, B. tabaci is not picky, and will attack over 500 different species of plants.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

First Post!!!!111

It's Theme Week at the ISW. For the next seven days you'll be treated to "A Week of Firsts" - posts about new and exciting (and dangerous) introductions across the globe.

First up: From the NAPPO Phytosanitary Alert System, news that the coconut borer (Pachymerus nucleorum) has made its first appearance in the U.S., found earlier this spring in a trap in Palm Beach, Florida. This South American beetle, as you might suspect from its common name, enjoys feeding on several different palm genera. I don't think any of the palm species are native, but many are popular ornamentals in Florida. There is very little information about the coconut borer available on the internet - the only photo I could find is about half way down this page.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Woodchewers Warehouse

According to this email over at the Yahoo! group ma-eppc, Asian longhorned beetles (Anoplophora glabripennis) have been found in a warehouse in Sacramento, California. This isn't the first time the beetles have been detected in that state, but in this case investigators also found living specimens outside of the building. The warehouse is being leased by a company importing goods from China, and workers there noted that they saw beetle larvae and digested wood in the (supposedly fumigated!) wooden crates used to ship the goods. Scientists are now setting traps within an eight mile radius around the warehouse, to monitor the area for further evidence of the beetle's spread.

Friday, June 24, 2005

The S.O.S. Minnow

According to this story over at the innovations report, the many minnows in Europe are sharing more than just a name. A study done by researchers in the US and the UK concluded that a parasite-ridden Asian minnow known as the topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva) is responsible for spreading parasites to Europe's now-endangered small sunbleak minnow (Leucaspius delineatus). The parasite, which is not only killing many of the sunbleaks but also practically eliminating their reproductive capabilities, is known only as a "rosette-like intracellular eukaryotic parasite" that is "closely related to an odd group of fungus-like organisms called choanoflagellates". The research was recently published in the journal Nature, but unless you have a subscription you are restricted to reading a brief summary and some supplementary information.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The Touch, The Feel of Cotton...eww

Yahoo! News has this report about the discovery of the cottony psyllid (Psyllopsis discrepans) in North Dakota. The psyllid is native to Europe but likely entered North Dakota via Canada, where it has been chewing up ash trees for several years.

Update: Cottony psyllid may not be as new to the US (or Canada) as the above article implies. Specimen of the insect have been collected in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1993, in Michigan in 1955, and in Nova Scotia way back in 1921. Looks like more investigative work needs to be done before we get the big picture about the origin of the North Dakotan invasion and the extent of the cottony psyllid's spread.

Thanks to the Systematic Entomology Laboratory for providing this information.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Paging J. Lo is reporting that yellow anacondas (Eunectes notaeus) have been seen hanging around the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas. Thought to be escaped/released pets, the snakes sighted so far have all been at least six feet long! A refuge manager noted that the anacondas weren't likely to pose a threat to humans, but notice that the article doesn't mention any plans to capture the reptiles :-). Maybe they are waiting for Jon Voight and company.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Island Hopping

Dr. Uli Reinhardt writes:

Have you ever wanted to get rid of your stress by destroying invasive weeds ? Have you ever wanted to travel to the Galapagos Islands? Now you can realize both wishes at once. Dr. Uli Reinhardt from Eastern Michigan University and the Charles Darwin Research Station on Galapagos have set up a new conservation research project with Earthwatch Institute. The goal of the project is to save the last large remaining stand of the endemic Scalesia pedunculata forest from such nasty invasives as blackberry, guava, quinine an passion fruit. The weeds are displacing the native plants rapidly and research into their spread and the effectiveness of various control methods is badly needed. The NGO Earthwatch sends volunteers to all corners of the planet to fund and carry out research. Details about the Galapagos project can be found at in the Expedition Briefing (.pdf).

Maybe this is not your idea of a vacation, but it sounds like fun to me. Dr. Reinhardt and his team are out on their third trip right now, with two more expeditions planned for the end of 2005.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Killer Mozzies

Australian scientists are warning that an invasion of incredibly annoying proportions is on the verge of hitting mainland Australia. As reported by the Sunday Mail, the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) has been found on several islands in the Torres Strait, and are likely to enter Southern Australia if steps are not taken to prevent it. Bonus points to the Sunday Mail for printing the disgusting photo of a blood-engorged mosquito feeding on a human. Bleah.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Don't Panic!

There is a new book out about the coqui (Eleutherodactylus coqui) invasion in Hawaii. Titled "Panic in Paradise: Invasive Species Hysteria and the Hawaiian Coqui Frog War," it focuses on building a case for corruption behind the campaign to eradicate the frog from Hawaii, and is critical of the "unscientific smear campaign" (quotes are there because I am using their words, not to imply sarcasm :-)) against the coqui. The authors, Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer, run the Coqui Hawaiian Integration and Reeducation Project. Sounds like an interesting read, though note that the two positive reviews are from scientists already squarely in the "there's no such thing as Invasive Species" corner. If your curiosity is piqued, you may also want to check out this editorial/advert in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, written by Singer.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Johnny Tsunami

Newsday is reporting about an unexpected after-effect of the tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka late last year. The humongous waves apparently pushed invasive plant propagules (seeds, and IMHO vegetatively reproducing plant parts too) much further inland than they have been found before. Among those species: the American prickly pear (Opuntia spp.) and mesquite (Prosopis spp.).

Thursday, June 16, 2005

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pond of Cure

It was just over a year ago that the ISW first posted about the red tape complicating plans to remove the African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis) from a pond in Golden Gate Park. Guess what? They're still there. As reported by the San Francisco Examiner, the Lily Pond Coalition is complaining that city and state officials are not moving fast enough to eradicate the frogs, and is worried that there will be a negative impact on native frog species.

There are now more than 10,000 African clawed frogs in Lily Pond. The article makes it sound like officials still aren't sure about the best way to get rid of them, so perhaps it does not make sense to act in haste. But while there are many more invasive species problems than California has time or money to address, this seems like a well-contained potential threat that would be a lot less expensive to clean up now, before the frogs have a chance to spread.

Interested readers may also want to check out this piece in Faultline.


Welcome My Yahoo! users, I hope you enjoy your stop at the ISW. :-)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

No Newts is Good Newts is reporting that poisonous newts have established themselves on an island off the coast of Alaska after they were accidentally released into the wild. A high school student collected several dozen rough-skinned newts (Taricha granulosa) from a nearby island for a science project, only to have them escape while cleaning the tank. Baranof Island, home to Sitka High School, did not have any previous records of the newt, and in fact has only one other amphibian species present. The permits required to collect and keep the newts were not procured for the student's project. Scientists think that the newts were previously prevented from spreading naturally to new islands by their inability to navigate through salt water.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Poop and Circumstance

The Billings Gazette is reporting that the horses ridden by the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona are being fed a pellet-based diet. Why is this ISW news? The horses have been switched off hay to avoid the danger of their feces spreading non-native weeds, typically found as hay contaminants, into the deserts of Arizona. I still wonder how groups that rent out goats and sheep to eat invasives deal with this issue.

Thanks to a member of the Yahoo! group ma-eppc for posting this article.

Monday, June 13, 2005

1000th POST!

That's right folks, this is the one thousandth post at the ISW. To celebrate, I'm doing something brand new...uh, actually I'm doing something new for the ISW but kind of old, at least in the blogosphere. I promise to make it as loaded with invasive alien goodness as possible.

Some crazy nuthatch summoned me to this book meme:

Number of books I own: About 500, together with my husband. The rule is to use the library for fiction unless it is an author I really like, or if the book is used. This keep the numbers down.

Last book I bought: The Baja California Plant Field Guide by Norman C. Roberts, preceding a trip to Los Cabos, Mexico. Nice book, but not nearly big enough to cover what I photographed, many of which were species not native to the region.

Last book I read for the first time: Survivor: A Novel by Chuck Palahniuk. I thought it was really good read. And yes, I did buy it.

Five books that have influenced me a lot: Finally, something meaty...

Five bloggers to inflict this onto: I think I'll keep my wacky blogroll to myself for now.

Thank you everyone for stopping by, and see you at the ISW 2K!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Don't Take the Bait

Keeping on with the goby theme...According to this story from the Toledo Blade, biologists out on a three-week excursion to catch as many sturgeon in the Great Lakes as possible are using round gobies (Neogobius melanostomus) as bait - and the sturgeon are loving it. Turns out many game fish like the gobies as well. Hope this doesn't catch on in non-invaded lakes.

Saturday, June 11, 2005


MLive has this story about the "Goby Assault Party" held on Muskegon Lake, Michigan today. The person who fishes the most round goby (Neogobius melanostomus) out of the lake wins $1000. A prize also goes to the person who catches the largest round goby ("Goby Dick" - get yer mind out of the gutter!) and all gobies caught get hung in the "Goby Gallows."

Update: "Goby Dick" was 8 inches long, and worth $500 (People, please! Behave yourselves!). Read all about the catches of the day in this MLive article.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Smoking the Grass

Interesting article at St. Louis Today about a movement by homeowners/gardeners to convert their typical, boring, grassy lawns to more natural areas filled with native plants. A group called the Wild Ones meets at least once a month to talk native alternatives, landscaping techniques, and of course, how to deal with invasive plants. Sign me up!

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Don't You Know That You're Toxic?

North Dakota is dealing with an invasive plant that is so toxic, weed control officers must wear gloves when handling it. As reported by the Grand Forks Herald, the species in question is black henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), so named because it killed the hens who ate it. Luckily (?), it smells so bad that most things won't eat it, but that doesn't mean that North Dakotans are happy about this Mediterranean weed lining their roads.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Low on the Hog

ABC News has this report about booming populations of feral hogs (Sus scrofa) in Florida. There are now half a million of the porcine critters running around that state. A nice overview of feral pig history but really nothing alarming or new for the media to report on.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In the Bags

Sometimes a picture really is worth 1000 words. That's good, because I am finding it hard to type after seeing this ridiculous getup posted by National Geographic News. Seems someone really wanted to smuggle some new tropical fishies into Australia. Unfortunately for her the noise made by the fish flipping around in the bags gave her away. Sheesh.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Aussie Mega Cool

As reported by the Environment News Service, Australia has become the first country to sign the International Convention for the Control and Management of Ships' Ballast Water and Sediments. The convention was approved by the International Maritime Organization back in early 2004 (link to related ISW posts). Of course, this signing doesn't mean regulations are about to go into effect - Australia now need to apply "due parliamentary scrutiny" to determine whether they should ratify the convention. Plus, the Convention won't be enacted until one year after 30 countries have all ratified it.

Thanks to Bryan N. for sending in a link to this story.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Hello Wisconsin!!!

This June the state of Wisconsin is holding its first ever Invasive Species Awareness month. As reported by the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune, a number of flora and fauna will be highlighted, with trips and demonstrations going on all month long. If you're planning on being in the area, you might want to check out complete event listing. I noticed several garlic mustard-pulling expeditions on the list :-).

Saturday, June 04, 2005

No Nukes is Good Nukes?

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering banning the use of the nuclear worm (Namalycastis sp.) as bait, according to this story in The Bay Journal. The report says officials are wary after problems with invasive snakehead fish and are looking closely at regulating any imported bait. Some bait shops have already stopped selling the worms, while others have noted demand is high for this large, cheap hook-baiting option.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Space Invaders

The New Scientist is reporting about a twist on the concept of "alien invasion": microbes present on Earth's spacecraft may be able to survive on Mars. Scientists used the hardy bacterium Chroococcidiopsis sp. 029 to show that microbes not only live through the trip from one planet to another, they can also avoid death from Mars' harsh UV rays if they are buried under a small amount of substrate. You can read the research paper, from the journal Astrobiology, by clicking here (.pdf). I thought this was being reported as a warning, but scientists have apparently known about this for a while - NASA posted this article back in 2001 about how Chroococcidiopsis would be a great starter candidate for terraforming Mars. Sheesh, can't we just build a Genesis Device instead?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Reading is Fundamental

The Stamford Advocate has a story about one Connecticut school's skepticism after receiving a federal alert warning against the use giant African snails (Achatina fulica, among others) in the classroom. Apparently teachers and staff at the elementary school thought the email warnings from the USDA were spam, and assumed the warning about a tropical snail wouldn't affect New England. Glad none of the science teachers I know act like that.

If you are a teacher interested in incorporating invasive species ecology into your curriculum, a good starting point is the Educational Resources links page.