An invasive species can be anything from plant, animal or fungus that is introduced to a non-native habitat and has a tendency to spread to a degree that causes damage throughout the environment, human health or economy. In this installment, we're taking a look at 10 devastating invasive species, caused by man.
Though not as dangerous to man as people like to imagine, the Asian "killer" hornet is far more dangerous to indigenous bee species. Though not worldwide yet, they have made their way from Japan to China and even parts of France. These large hornets survive by eating the larvae of honey bees. As if there isn't enough of a problem with our bee population dying off , just 4 of these hornets are capable of wiping out an entire colony of honey bees.
Africanized Honey Bees (Killer Bees)
Africanized honey bees, commonly known as the killer bee, are a cross between the African honey bee (A. m. scutellata) and various types of European honey bees, such as (A. m. ligustica) and (A. m. iberiensis). Some of the bees escaped the grounds and began breeding with the local Brazilian honey bees, quickly spiking their numbers and range throughout South and Central America. Highly aggressive, the killer bee gets its name due to the way it attacks anything that strays into its perceived territory. To date, the accidental release of these bees have been responsible for 1,000 human deaths, and are virtually impossible to stop, as species are able to interbreed with each other and create new deadly hybrids. That is.. until you see number one.
Not all invasive species are introduced to their new environments by accident, in the case of the cane toad, it was brought in to handle crop-eating pests. Well, the toads did their job a little too well - causing them to become the new pests. Native to South and Central America, the toad was distributed throughout Hawaii and parts of the Caribbean and the Philippines to protect sugar cane fields. Not just dangerous to the local wildlife, the cane toad secretes a toxin strong enough to kill young children and those with weak immune systems.
Asian Tiger Mosquito
As the name implies, the Asian tiger mosquito is native to parts of Asia; but in 1985, they were found in staggering numbers in Texas and were believed to have been brought over as dormant eggs in cargo shipments. As with all invasive species, the Asian tiger mosquito has outshone the local mosquitoes native to the United States. The major problem they bring is the ability to spread great diseases, such as dengue fever and Eastern equine encephalitis, something native species weren't known to carry.
If you hadn't guessed, the Nile perch is native to the freshwater lake and river systems throughout Africa. However, the perch was introduced in the 1950's into one of Africa's great lakes, Lake Victoria - and the ecosystem of the lake was in no way prepared. The perch population boomed in the late 1980's and have since wrought havoc to the various fish and other aquatic wildlife in the area.
Northern Snakehead Fish
The northern snakehead fish originally comes from China, Korea, and Russia, and has since made its way over to North America - where the fish outcompetes the native species for food. Though still new and not completely established, the northern snakehead has already begun impacting the ecosystem - as they will eat anything from other fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and even mammals that venture into their territory.
Sure, they're cute and fluffy, but they can also be large pests. The European rabbit, also called the common rabbit, has exploded in population pretty much across the globe. With their tendency to overpopulate, these little field-grazing hellions are nearly impossible to keep in check. Just to give you an example, the population of common rabbit in Australia, which is large, is due to just 24 rabbits that an English farmer brought over back in 1859.
Known commonly as the "ship rat", this creature is directly responsible or has greatly contributed to the extinction of a vast number of species - especially on smaller islands. The ship rat is most commonly identified with large declines of bird populations and has been moved around to non-native areas since man has been sailing the oceans. They don't just stop there, however, any species of animal that is similar in weight or size are most vulnerable to becoming their prey.
Native throughout Southeast Asia, the Burmese python has exploded throughout Southern Florida. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, approximately 99,000 Burmese pythons were imported to the United States between 1996 and 2006. Large and hungry, the python has been known to make a meal of a variety of creatures - both mammal and amphibian. With no known natural predator on the western side of the globe, they go largely unchecked and have developed a nasty habit of eating small pets.
Small yet plentiful, the zebra mussel doesn't just attach themselves to objects, they cover them. The females of these species produce between 100,000 to 500,000 eggs per year, each. Native to Eastern Europe and Western Russia, they have been brought to the Great Lakes in the United States in the ballast water of ships. Though they do impede other wildlife in the area, they are an especially costly problem for surrounding cities - as the mussels clog water intakes of power plants.