Thursday, July 2, 2015

A new threat to our local environment. Be on the lookout and help stamp out the Pacific island flatworm

It has been almost a year since my last posting on invasive species (August 4, 2014).  The last two posts covered invasive/local snails.  This current post concerns a new threat to our local environment; a creature described a ‘vile’, a ‘revolting’ pernicious predator to our local snail.  Be on the lookout and help stamp out this threat: the Pacific island flatworm.

See the Miami Herald: Goo-spewing worm latest threat to South Florida, By Jenny Staletovich:
Researchers last month confirmed for the first time that the Pacific island flatworm has been found on the U.S. mainland in four locations around Miami-Dade County. Even tony Coral Gables. The nocturnal creeper clocks in at just two inches, looking more like a smudge of snot than an agile predator. But don’t be fooled by its sluggish demeanor. At mealtime, the worm goes full-on Alien, posing a potentially serious threat to South Florida’s already fragile native snail population.

“It is really vile,” said David Robinson, the nation’s chief snail scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “As a biologist I can handle most things, but I find this really revolting.”

Scientists worry the worm — which is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as one of the planet’s 100 most invasive species — could spread by being transported in garden soil or on plants.
Another threat to look out for. And certainly something you do not want to spread. What can it do?  The effect in South Florida is unknown for now, as discussed in the article:
“In the case of Florida, we don’t really have a handle on what it could do,” he said, but pointed out that even after several years it does not appear to have had a significant impact.

“We can hope that Miami is not the best place for it to survive,” he said.

But should they spread, South Florida’s native snail population, already imperiled by shrinking habitat and threatened by climate change, collectors and invasive fire ants, could be in trouble.

“They are no where else to be found,” Sei said. “So once they are gone from South Florida, they are gone from the whole world.”

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