Friday, February 29, 2008

Tough As Snails

The Fiji Times is reporting that a bunch of giant African land snails (Achatina fulica) were caught trying to sneak onto the island of Fiji this week. Luckily, they were caught during an inspection by the island's Quarantine Department and were properly disposed of. The article notes the threat the snails pose to agriculture, but also claims they are not a threat to humans. Regular readers of the ISW will remember that they can be carriers of the rat parasite Parastrongylus cantonensis, which can be transmitted to humans and has been known to be deadly.

Do click through to the full story, if only to check out the requisite photo of a giant snail. Fiji looks to have the coolest and toughest quarantine inspectors, do they not? If I were a snail I wouldn't mess with them! ;-)

(Thanks to monopolist for the punny title)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

At The Hop

The Vancouver Aquarium recently posted this video on YouTube, showing the world how silly and clumsy the American bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) can be when trying to grab a meal. The video is part of an effort by the aquarium to raise awareness about the environmental perils that today's frogs face, but, perhaps ironically, the froggies featured in the video are actually invasive in British Columbia, Canada, where the aquarium is located. Ribbit. (Tip of the virtual hat to boingboing for posting a link to the vid)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Expanding The Pythonosphere

Think you can rest easy in your temperate perch while tropical places like Florida deal with a burmese python invasion of Everglades proportions? Think again. A press release from the USGS details a new report on the potential range of those invasive snakes (Python molurus bivittatus), and it includes the entire southern third of the USA. When researchers ran the model again, taking potential global warming changes into effect, the projected python range got even bigger, stretching up as far as New Jersey and southern New York on the east coast. While these predictions are only taking climate-based models into consideration, a full risk assessment for the burmese python and several other non-native snakes is expected by 2009.

Thanks to Allan I. for sending in a link to this story.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Fish Take

A few of you have written in to point out the recent media coverage of a possibly controversial take on non-native fish introductions. Noting that the risk of negative ecological impacts following fish introductions is typically less than 10%, Dr. Rodolphe Guzman, a biologist at Bournemouth University, posits that this means the majority of introductions are safe, and considers the risk of invasion to be only one factor in the decision of whether to bring non-native species into aquaculture. Read more in this interview from Reuters or this writeup in Practical Fishkeeping. You can also check out the Gozlan article, "Introduction of non-native freshwater fish: is it all bad?" in the journal Fish and Fisheries (abstract only).

Thursday, February 21, 2008


This coming Sunday marks the beginning of the 9th annual "National Invasive Weeds Awareness Week" here in the USA. NIWAW is held every year in Washington D.C. and is an opportunity for those concerned about invasiveness species to hear about invasive plant projects across the country and to get tips that will help them more effectively represent themselves as constituents to their own lawmakers.

If you're interested but you can't make it to NIWAW 9, you should still check out their website for some helpful documents to read.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ghoul Of Fish

Yikes - it seems that the giant snakehead (Channa micropeltes) has made an appearance in British waters. According to this report from the Telegraph, an angler hoping to catch a pike on the River Witham grabbed a two-foot-long, three pound Asian snakehead fish instead. This may be the first record of this species in UK waters.

The story is getting lots of media coverage, with the usual thorough job done by the BBC, but the best title so far is going to, who proclaimed, "Man-eating 'psycho' fish found in UK."

Thanks to budak for sending in a link to this story.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A-Fish-al Business

Adelaide Now is reporting that yet another aquarium fish has managed to become established in the wild in Australia. Officials aren't quite sure how the Mozambique tilapia (Oreochromis mossambicus) is getting around in Queensland, but they suspect it is due to a combination of releases of unwanted aquarium fish and the transport (intentional or accidental) of the tilapia from one body of water to another. Mozambique tilapia are tolerant of a wide range of environmental conditions, which may have contributed to their success in the lakes and rivers of Queensland since their discovery about 30 years ago.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekend Photoblogging

A gallery of strange and beautiful photos signifying death - images of ash trees attacked by the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis):

We have borersign
Originally uploaded by Benimoto

Emerald Ash Borer Damage
Originally uploaded by a2gemma

Beauty in Death
Originally uploaded by John Hritz

Mark of the Emerald Ash Borer
Originally uploaded by RoguePoet

Ash Memorial III
Originally uploaded by Voxphoto

Ash Memorial IV
Originally uploaded by Voxphoto
(Thanks to Benimoto, a2gemma, John Hritz, RoguePoet, and Voxphoto for sharing these photos under a Creative Commons license.)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Little Miss Muffett

The Southland Times is reporting that a woman in New Zealand was recently alarmed to discover a redback spider (Latrodectus hasselti) crawling out of a decoration in her house. After she immobilized said spider with a pesticide and stored it for safekeeping, the NZ Ministry of Agriculture & Forestry came and picked it up, confirming the id and verifying that, luckily, there were not any additional spiders hanging about. The redback, which has a painful, venomous bite, is an Australian native that currently has some established populations in New Zealand.

Thanks to Andrew B. for sending in a link to this story.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Are You Smarter Than A 4th Grader?

Kudos to Ms. Gatchet's fourth grade science class in Corvallis, Oregon. After studying the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) they ordered from a research facility, they smartly voted against releasing the critters into the wild (as classes often do) and instead handed them over to someone at Oregon State University Cooperative Extension for safe keeping. Rusty crayfish are native to the USA but only to the Ohio River area. The Statesman Journal has the full story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blasted Cactoblastis!

Monique R. wrote in to point out this recent posting in the US Federal Register regarding the South American cactus moth (Cactoblastis cactorum). The USDA has just opened up a public comment period soliciting opinions about an effort to protect the central and western parts of the USA from the negative impact that cactus moths can have on prickly pear cacti (Opuntia spp.) and their cactus relatives (Consolea spp., Cylindropuntia spp., Nopalea spp.). Along with a control program where sterile cactus moths will be released into the wild, the USDA is proposing a four-state quarantine zone (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina) from which interstate movement of the cactus genera listed above would be prohibited. Anyone interested in commenting on this issue can do so up until April 11, 2008.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Country Club Prison?

The San Marcos Daily Record is reporting that a Texas man has been indicted after allegedly dumping fertile grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) into several ponds at a country club in San Antonio. Grass carp can be legally imported into Texas (and indeed they sometimes are for use in the control of invasive aquatic plants) but only if they are sterile and are accompanied by the proper permits. The man apparently brought the fish across state lines from Arkansas and let them go in the ponds without the knowledge of the club's owners. If he is found guilty of all three counts of the indictment, he could receive as much as six years of jail time and $30,000 in fines.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Weekend Photoblogging

Mute swans, a whole lot of them. They're there, though you might have to click through to the photo page for confirmation.

Stylurus notes that "On December 28, 2004, we counted 590 individuals at this location."

(Thanks to Stylurus for allowing me to post this photo.)

Friday, February 08, 2008

Native Or Not: You Make The Call

(Another installment in the very infrequent series)

The North-West Evening Mail is reporting that efforts are currently underway to get beech trees (Fagus sylvatica) declared as native in Northwest England, in order to protect them from being cut down. The evidence being presented in support of the change in classification is ancient pollen indicating beech was present back in prehistoric times in what is now known as the county of Cumbria. Things are complicated by the fact that many of the beech stands in the area are known to have been planted, and by the fact that Southern England, where the beech is considered native, is experiencing a decline in the species thought to be tied to climate change. As the campaign presses on, there remains some controversy regarding the history of the species in England, as well as whether beech should be considered an invasive species, whether it is native or not. You can read more about the campaign to protect the beech here.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Fishing For Dollars

Conservation Magazine, among others, is reporting about a study recently published in PLoS Biology that concluded that river basins most invaded by non-native fish species tend to be located in parts of the world where the greatest amount of human activity occurs. The authors found a positive correlation between level of invasion and such factors as Gross Domestic Product and population level, but did not see significant correlation when looking at biotic factors like number of native species in the invaded ecosystem. Perhaps more worrisome is that these invasion "hotspots" are the same places where the highest numbers of threatened native fish species live.

This story is getting additional coverage here, here and here, but if you want the whole story, you should go read the full article (it's free!). Thanks to budak for sending in the link.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

All Hail Our New Beetle Overl....oh pffft! We've got too many overlords already...

The Telegraph is reporting that the Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis, you might call them "ladybugs") is now the major lady beetle species in the UK. Impressively, the beetle has managed to do this in just a few short years, with the first record of one in Britain back in 2004. The news of the Asian lady beetle's domination comes from the UK Harlequin Ladybird Survey, a program whose leaders go so far as to call their subject "the most invasive ladybird on Earth." Kudos to the Telegraph for including a UK distribution map and an excellent, if gruesome, action shot of two Asian lady beetle larvae munching on a poor 7-spot lady beetle (Coccinella septempunctata), a native UK species.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Clean Boat Clean Boat Clean Boat Redux

Hey, turns out that you still have a few days left if you want to submit a proposal for the BoatU.S. Clean Water Grants program. The deadline was actually Feb. 1st but due to an error on this website, the deadline has been extended until Feb. 8th (Get the background here). You've still got only a few days left, and BoatU.S. is asking any late-comers to use their electronic submission process. This year the grant program is specifically focused on invasive species issues, so if you're part of a U.S. non-profit volunteer organization interesting in receiving up to $4000 for "creative and innovative projects that teach boaters to reduce their impact on the waters they use for boating," get thee to the grant app, pronto! (This means you too, Anonymous ;-).)

Monday, February 04, 2008

We Didn't Start The Fire...or maybe we did!

The Missoulian is reporting that researchers in Montana are taking a closer look at the way their state fights wildfires following concern that it could be leading to the further spread of invasive plant species. Typically large wildfires are attacked from above through the release of flame retardant by aircraft. Unfortunately the flame retardant contains chemicals that can act like a fertilizer on the ground below, injecting the soil with nitrogen and phosphorus that invaders like cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and tumbleweed mustard (Sisymbrium sp.) grab onto and use as a nutrient boost to expand their populations. Since cheatgrass is known to contribute to the strength and size of fires, these aerial treatments meant to fight fire could actually be indirectly contributing to future burns. One possible way being considered to deal with this problem is to follow flame retardant treatments with a reseeding of native seeds.

Thanks to Bill of the Invasive Species of Eastern USA blog for sending in a link to this story.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Feeds You Need

It's Blogroll Amnesty Day. When you're done shedding all those old, unread blogs, why not pick up a nice new coat of shiny science blogs to try on? I've got a few suggestions below, the caveat being that I'm partial to blogs that offer full posts in their RSS feed, so those that force me to click through did not make the list:

  • Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog. I love this blog and I'm not even sure why! It's so darn interesting to be reading about Golden Rice one day and the rediscovery of an ancient Cambodian pepper the next. The folks that run ABW are really good at rounding up relevant links.
  • Niches. How Wayne manages to put up such large posts so regularly, I'll never know. But he's been doing it for years, posts spanning topics from ecology to climate change to his enduring battle with Japanese stiltgrass. Once Wayne went away on vacation and left up a link to a webcam which featured footage of several cats running around his house with knocked over tables and such. Good times.
  • The Voltage Gate. The SciBlings don't really need any more publicity, but I couldn't help but mention TVG as one of my favorite reads. Great science writing, some great nature writing, and an odd affinity for World of Warcraft creatures. Really just great writing all around.
  • The annotated budak. Go for the excellent photos, stay for the excellent nature blogging. Actually, budak posts on a variety of topics including arthropods, coastal ecosystems, and his travels. budak also send in lots of stories to the ISW so maybe I am a bit biased, but really, look at this velvet ant!

Any good-but-lesser-known science blogs I've missed? Post 'em in the comments.

Weekend Photoblogging

Air Potato Roundup
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Holy cow, that is one massive air potato tuber you've got there, sassycrafter!

(Thanks to sassycrafter for posting this photo under a Creative Commons license.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Clean Boat Clean Boat Clean Boat...

...Hey, that wasn't that hard to say! :-)

If you live in the USA (well, mainland USA) and you are into boating, check out this cool contest from the Izaak Walton League of America. If you can correctly answer all four questions in their Clean Boat Challenge, you could win $2500 to spend at Bass Pro Shops. Also, if you are part of a non-profit organization aiming to help keep aquatic invasive species from spreading, check out the Boat U.S. Foundation's Clean Water Grants program (but hurry - deadline is Feb. 8th!). Longtime readers of the ISW may remember that Bass Pro Shops is the same company that offered a bounty on the Northern snakehead back in 2004.

(Tip of the virtual hat to BYM Product and Industry News for posting the press release.)