The way to kill invasive species, and thereby protect endangered species are brutal—traps, long-range rifles, and poisons—deployable only on a small scale and wildly indiscriminate. To excise the rat, say, from an ecosystem requires a sledgehammer that falls on many species.
All this is why some conservation biologists such as Karl Campbell has begun pushing for research into a much more precise and effective tool—one you might not associate with nature-loving conservationists. Self-perpetuating synthetic genetic machines called gene drives could someday alter not just one gene or one rat or even a population of rats but an entire species—of rats, mosquitoes, ticks, or any creature. And this biological technology promises to eliminate these destructive animals without shedding a drop of blood.
But the methods also contain the threat of unleashing another problem: They could change species, populations, and ecosystems in unintended and unstoppable ways.
Want to know more? Read about it here.
What kind of fresh new horror is this? Fire ants, who’s bite is painful and itchy, don’t die when flooded. They form a flotilla using the body of dead ants. That’s right, the dead ones create a raft for the live ones to float away.
Want to have nightmares of ants crawling all over you while you are drowning in flood waters? Read more about it here!
And don’t touch the flotillas of fire ants. Kill it with fire (I’ve been told detergent is better. Less satisfying but better).
Those are all floating fire ants. All of them.
It’s been more than 20 years since one of the most destructive invasive species in history was released off the coast of Florida. Originally from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, predatory lionfish have invaded the western Atlantic Ocean, spreading from the American east coast through the Caribbean to southern Brazil, devastating coastal ecosystems with their voracious appetites. Now, new research has revealed that invasive lionfish are not quite what they seem.
“Marine invasions … are a scourge,” says Brian Bowen, a geneticist at the University of Hawai‘i. “But this is an invasion of what could be a superfish.”
But a new study, recently published in the Journal of Heredity, flips the whole situation on its head.
Want to know more? Read about it here!
Happy National Invasive Species Awareness Week!
And because a number of the invasive species of concern in the United States are insects, then entomologists are the front line of defense. In 2016 the Entomological Society of America developed a formal position on invasive species here “The Not-So-Hidden Dangers of Invasive Species” [PDF].
Or you can read all about Invasive Species Awareness week over at Entomology Today.
It’s not an anaconda. Nor is it the piraña.
It’s the golden mussel. No. Seriously.
Invasive species killing local organisms is nothing new. In fact, it’s almost in the definition of “invasive species”. But this mussel has been increasing at an alarming rate int he amazonian waters, and it is killing off existing species and destroying its habitats.
But, combatting this guy, is tougher than one would think. How do you kill the mussel that is destroying the biodiversity of the Amazon without… destroying the biodiversity of the Amazon.
Enter Marcela Uliano da Silva, (PhD student at Federal University of Rio de Janerio) who is finding new ways to target just the golden mussel by using it’s genome.
Read about it over at ZY!