Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TIME's Top 10 Most Invasive Species

I love reading TIME's Top 10 anything. So interesting! The most recent interesting ranking is on the top 10 most invasive species. Check it out!

"Now the purple-green iridescent birds roost in hordes of up to 1 million; they can devour up to 20 tons of potatoes in one day and their droppings are believed to be vectors of several infectious diseases. Numerous inventive attempts have been made to eradicate the birds — including strategies involving itching powder, live wires, poisoned pellets, cobalt 60 and Roman candles. Even a jetliner couldn't stop them. In 1960, a flock of some 10,000 starlings flew straight into a Lockheed Electra, crippling its engine and causing the plane to crash. Sixty-two people were killed."

"Some call it "the vine that ate the South." It grows up to 1 ft. (30 cm) every day in the summer months, and can break power lines, kill trees and collapse buildings. Used for decorative and medicinal purposes in Asia, kudzu was first seen in the U.S. when the Japanese made it part of a garden at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. Americans fell in love with the vine's bright green leaves and fragrant flowers; in the 1930s, the government paid farmers to plant it to prevent soil erosion. But kudzu grew too well outside its natural habitat; it thrives in the hot summers and mild winters of the southern states, is difficult to uproot and has no natural predators outside of Asia. It now covers seven million acres of the Southeast."

"Originally introduced to control pests, the cane toad has become a pest of its own. Native to Central America, the toads were brought to Australia in 1935 in an attempt to control the cane beetle population in sugar plantations. Ultimately there was no evidence they killed a single beetle."

"In the 1970s, catfish farmers used these hardy foreign carp to remove algae from their ponds. But over the decades, floods that caused catfish ponds to overflow have released the species into the Mississippi river basin. Asian carp can grow to 4 ft. (1.2 m) in length and weigh over 100 lb. (45 kg), and have a tendency to leap out of the water, injuring fishermen and the occasional newscaster. With no natural predators and a predilection for killing off other marine life by eating all the plankton, the carp have overrun the Mississippi and are swimming towards the Great Lakes, the world's largest freshwater ecosystem. An elaborate system of barriers was constructed in 2002 to keep them contained, but the Wilmette DNA sample indicates that the fish have most likely found away around it."

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