The unsightly New Guinea flatworm (Platydemus manokwari) which has an insatiable appetite for land snails was found crawling in Miami and several other places it shouldn’t. Researchers say that the invasive species was spotted in the U.S. for the first time in 2012.
But other locations have been invaded by the slithery flatworm including the Wallis and Futuna Islands, Puerto Rico, New Caledonia and Singapore. People there now fear that the may endanger their local land snail species.
Platydemus already gives headaches to people in the Pacific Islands because it keeps on feeding on the land snail fauna which may soon go extinct. In the Pacific, the New Guinea flatworm was deliberately introduced to fight off an invasion of African snails.
But in the U.S. and other locations the animal was introduced accidentally. The creature, which has a mouth in the middle of its belly, hunts sails in a unique way. It first wraps itself around its prey, and then consumes it.
But the flatworm is known for being ever-hungry, so snails have been put in danger wherever it started to hunt.
Invasive Species Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has even listed the greedy flatworm among the 100 most devastating species for local fauna.
But the worm is not only harming snails. Its appetite threatens dozens of bird species that feed on snails, and may disturb the balance in local flora as some plants may become overgrown because there are no snails to contain them.
And to top it off, New Guinea flatworm is a menace to humans too, Biologists explain that it leaves behind poisonous chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions. The chemicals are contained in the mucus the creature uses to move and keep safe from predators.
The worm which is a New Guinea native is a very invasive species. Fifteen countries had been affected by it including France. In its home country, it thrives at high altitudes that have a mild climate. But in Florida, it must have landed about three years ago.
Due to its preference for warm climate, the flatworm may not make itself like home in northern U.S. or Canada. It also has slim chances of adapting in the Rocky Mountains or other desert areas because it needs moist and plants to move around. But any other place in the U.S. may just fit it.
Additionally, the flatworm may find America very welcoming because it doesn’t have to infiltrate on boats or planes to move from one place to another as it did in the Pacific Islands.
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