Tuesday, June 11, 2013

SUPER Invasives!!! And Beyond!!!

Image 1
    It is a well known fact that one of the greatest sources of biodiversity loss is from invasive species. When invasive are introduced, they out-compete native species and drive them to rarity and/or extinction, yet it solely through the chance movements by humans.  As a species, humans are a great dispersal system, for we move around a lot and we ship many things to every part of the world. So, it has been realized that there is a trend with how we affect species, especially by introducing them. For every 1000 species introduced, 100 will survive, 10 will establish, and 1 will become invasive. Does this trend further extend to higher classes of invasive species? Meaning that for every 10,000 species introduced, 1,000 will survive, 100 will establish, 10 will become invasive, and 1 will become a super invasive or is there different trend of which there would be many classifications of invasive above regular invasive species. A super invasive would be an invasive species that is drastically stronger as an invader than another invasive species, possibly even being able to out-compete similar invaders. Furthermore, this trend could even extend further until there is one species that is more invasive than any other in existence.

Image 2 (CREDIT: Joe MacGown, Mississippi Entomological Muse)
    A well known invasive species that has a much stronger effect than other invasive species is the zebra mussel. Yet its effects aren’t felt as strongly by other species, for it can still allow for the coexistence with other species that are native, as is shown in the case with fragile papershell mollusks(Nichols et al, 1999). Its super invasive prowess comes from its ability to be a profound nuisance to the greatest invasive species there has ever been, humans.  Zebra mussels have had huge economic effects on humans in the great lakes(Connelly et al, 2007). They clog drainage pipes frequently, but more importantly they effect the efficiency at which drinkable water is made and energy facilities(such as dams). Their ability to cling to almost anything can be seen in image 2, where they have coated a shopping cart that has been in zebra mussel infested waters. Their ability to get almost anywhere within a year, which is their age of fertility, has made them the largest nuisance in the great lakes, in reference to invasive species(Connelly et al, 2007).
    Fire ants, specifically the red imported fire ant,  are an invasive species. They were introduced in the 1930’s in Alabama and they spread like wild fire. There is also a native red fire ant in the southwestern region of the US, but its range is fairly limited. The red imported fire ant spread and invaded the entire south and can out compete or co-exist with the southwestern native fire ant, depending on the circumstances. The native red fire ant isn’t all too much of a nuisance, but the imported red fire ant is more invasive and environmentally elastic than the native red fire ant, so it has a tendency to be more intrusive upon humans and other ants, thus making it an invasive species(Jacobson et al, 2006).

Image 3 (CREDIT: James F. Lubner, University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute, Bugwood.org

    Recently, another ant has been introduced known as the tawny crazy ant, which was accidentally imported from Brazil/Argentina by humans. It is known as a crazy ant, because of its random movements and how it holds it self slightly askew, as can be seen in image 3. The tawny crazy ant is very similar to fire ants in many ways, but they have one advantage.  They don’t specialize as to where they have to live, while fire ants need to live in ant hills in the ground(Main, 2013). This has allowed the tawny crazy ant the ability to out-compete the fire ant. Both of these ants are nuisances to humans and a fairly big one at that, but what specifically makes the tawny crazy ant a super invasive is the fact that in the areas it is found, the fire ants that were once there are now gone as a result of the appearance of the tawny crazy ant(Main, 2013).  Before, when it was just the fire ant, people found them to be a big nuisance, but now with this new ant, they find that they long for the old days when their ants stayed outside and only attacked when you attack their hills. People hate the fact that the tawny crazy ant will live almost anywhere, which accounts for its increased nuisance. It has been described as a super fire ant and the fire ant is an invasive species, therefore is a super invasive. Furthermore, invasive species are still being made and a case such as this really shows why we must stop the further creation of invasive species.
    There is at least 1 more level above super invasive. I say this for humans belong in a category all their own. This makes the current ultimate invasive species humans. It has been simply said that we are the ultimate invasive, because there isn’t anyplace on earth that we won’t be capable of inhabiting at some point. Many people have struggled with this idea and it comes up in the media over and over again. For example, the New York Times has published a blog on it entitled “The ultimate invasive species”, where they conclude that humans are indeed the greatest invasive species there has ever been(Revkin, 2011). It makes sense, for we have unbounded ingenuity and can overcome any obstacle if given enough time. We have affected more species in a negative manner than any other species on earth, we can decide to obliterate a species at any moment(except microbes, for now) with some collateral species, and we are the reason that other invasive species exist. Therefore, our species is responsible for their invasive damage as well as our own damages. This power over all other species must indeed mean that we are the current ultimate invasive species.
    There is a tier above invasive species which could be called super invasive and beyond that there must be at least one more tier of invasive species for the ultimate invasive species tier is above the super invasive species tier. Thus it follows that there is some sort of rule that will explain the trend in theory, even if it isn’t exactly right in real life. This means that for every 100,000 species introduced, 10,000 will survive, 1,000 will establish, 100 will become invasive, 10 will become a super invasive, and 1 is the ultimate invasive species, humans, for we introduced ourselves into new environments many times throughout history. Like I said, this relationship could take almost any form, I am just using the pre-existing one for extr
apolatory reasons, for it is an already well understood model that people find to be correct most of the time. Furthermore, with a way to qualify invasives that do more damage than others, we will be better able to know where our efforts must be applied, especially conservation efforts.

Primary Literature:
Nichols, S. J., & Amberg, J. (January 01, 1999). Co-existence of zebra mussels and freshwater unionids: population dynamics of Leptodea fragilis in a coastal wetland infested with zebra mussels. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 77, 3, 423-432.

Connelly, N., O'Neill, C., Knuth, B., & Brown, T. (January 01, 2007). Economic Impacts of Zebra Mussels on Drinking Water Treatment and Electric Power Generation Facilities. Environmental Management, 40, 1, 105-112.

Jacobson, A. L., Thompson, D. C., Murray, L., & Hanson, S. F. (January 01, 2006). Establishing guidelines to improve identification of fire ants Solenopsis xyloni and Solenopsis invicta. Journal of Economic Entomology, 99, 2, 313-22.

Popular media:
Main, D. (May , 17th 2013). 'crazy’ ants driving out fire ants in southeast. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/34488-crazy-ants-beat-fire-ants.html

Revkin, A. (March, 1st 2011). The ultimate invasive species?. Retrieved from http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/03/01/the-ultimate-invasive-species/ 

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