As Greenpeace and Al Gore are quick to point out, nature is fighting a losing battle against the technology and the modern world – but sometimes, nature fights back. The most destructive species of plants and animals are responsible for the extinction of numerous other species and have been known to destroy entire ecosystems, outwitting attempts to halt their progress. Typically, these species have invaded an area outside of their native habitat, upsetting the natural balance of the host ecosystem. International trade has contributed to an increase in invasive species worldwide but some invasion occurrences have been purely accidental. The ants, snails, weeds, bunnies and snakes that make the list of destructive species are there because of their catastrophic impacts on their environment, and their contribution to biological pollution. These species spread quickly in the environment and are highly resistant to attempts to control them. So dangerous have these animal proved that organisations like the National Invasive Species Council in the U.S. is created to control them. Read on to discover the devastating details on the world’s ten most destructive species.
10. The Cotton Whitefly
This tiny pest has demonstrated its ability huge damage to the environment and economy. An adult cotton whitefly is just a millimetre in length but a swam can invade and eliminate over 900 varieties of plants species. They are also capable of transmitting more than 100 plant viruses. Although their original habitat is India, the flies have taken their destructive mission all over the world, sparing only Antarctica.
9. The Asian Long-horned Beetle
The Asian long-horned beetle spends a large part of its life in the larval stage, when it digs tunnels in trees and eats the layer found between the wood and the bark. A large enough population of these beetles can kill and destroy an entire forest of trees. Government agencies and scientists have attempted to stall the spread of these destructive animals by cutting down and burning the infested trees – the classic solution of defensive destruction to combat even worse destruction. The beetle, native to Asian countries as its name suggests, threatens about 30%-35% of trees on the Atlantic coast. The most affected areas are parts of Europe, Ontario and California. This little monster has caused damage worth estimated tens of billions of dollars.
8. The Snakehead Fish
This truly terrifying creature has sharp teeth, a voracious appetite for blood and can grow to 3 feet long. Additionally, this fish can lay over 75,000 eggs annually, breathe and move on land and stay for up to 4 days out of water by using a unique breathing organ. The carnivorous fish is native to Southeast Asia and Russia, but has since spread to USA after its introduction by Asian food markets. The snakehead fish has reduced the population of other fish species especially bass and salmon because it has few predators.
7. Nile Perch
The native habitat of the Nile perch fish is freshwater lakes and rivers in Africa. In the 1950’s, the Nile perch was introduced to Lake Victoria to counteract over-fishing problems by increasing the number of native fish stocks in the lake. However, Lake Victoria’s ecosystem was ill-equipped for the Nile perch with the result that this gigantic fish, weighing up to 200kgs and growing to about 2 meters, has contributed to the extinction of over 200 native fish species through predation. At the expense of its ecosystem, this fish dines on other fish, insects, zooplankton and crustaceans.
6. Burmese Python
Burmese pythons are a classic example of the folly in introducing invasive, predatory species into a habitat where the native animals do not compete for resources. The Burmese pythons were introduced to the Everglades and Florida by pet owners who were discarded the unwanted creatures. The snakes, which are about 20-feet long, were originally from Southern Asia and were intended as domestic pets – a wild population wasn’t planned. The accidental introduction of these snakes In Florida and Everglades National Park has reduced species of mammals, alligators and even endangered birds. The Burmese pythons are quickly spreading in Florida and Everglades, with something between 5,000 and 180,000 Burmese pythons in the region.
5. The Asian-Tiger Mosquito
This mosquito has a distinct white and black stripe pattern on its body, and its original habitat is the subtropical and tropical regions of Southeast Asia. It exists, now, in about 28 countries. The mosquito has been accidentally introduced to other regions through international tire trade: Tires retain water and provide the perfect breeding ground for the tiger mosquito. The tiger mosquito feeds 24hours a day, compared to other species of mosquitoes which feed only in the morning or evening. This mosquito can be deadly for humans, as it’s a carrier of the potentially lethal West Nile and Dengue viruses. Governments have spent millions of dollars controlling the pest and treating people who have been infected with the viruses it carries.
4. European / Common rabbits
The common or European rabbit is native to North African and Europe. These rabbit species have been introduced in almost all continents except Asia and Antarctica. Famously, these bunnies breed at an astonishing rate so their population has increased to the point that it’s untenable. The most notorious case of rabbit population explosion occurred in Australia, where the rabbits were introduced in 1859. Only 24 European rabbits were introduced in Australia. Now, there are about 600 million rabbits destroying the ecology and native plants in the country. Fencing the rabbits off and introducing rabbit diseases are among the government’s increasingly desperate attempts to reduce the population, but the rabbit population is stubbornly rising. The common rabbits are also an invasive species in the United Kingdom, were there are about 40 million rabbits costing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage each year.
3. Cane Toad
The cane toad was introduced to Hawaii, the Philippines, the Caribbean and Australia from South and Central America to control pests in sugarcane plantations. At first, the cane toads produced impressive results, preying on the pests, so they were rapidly introduced to other parts of the world. Soon, though, it emerged that the cane toads don’t only eat pests – they’ve got a less convenient appetite for several other creatures. These huge toads can eat several creatures daily, and they steal pet food and produce toxins which can, in rare cases, kill human beings and other animal species. Like all the best destructive species, they have lots of babies: the Australian government introduced only 102 cane toads in the region in the 1930s, and now there are over 200 million of these less-than-princely amphibians.
2. The Black Rat
The black rat is probably the first damaging and invasive species to be distributed by man. The rat’s original habitat is in tropical Asia, but has rapidly spread to Europe and other parts of the world. The population of this rat has increased tremendously because it can adapt extraordinarily well to urban, rural and suburban ecosystems. Unfortunately, the rat has caused untold havoc by causing the reduction and extinction of numerous reptiles, birds and small vertebrate animals. The black rat’s main claim to infamy is, of course, its instrumental death in the Bubonic Plague or ‘Black Death’ of the 14th century in Europe. These vermin carried nasty fleas that spread a highly infectious bacteria, killing an estimated 60% of Europe’s entire population.
The human race have caused more damage to the earth than any other known species. Breeding at an extraordinary rate, the human population has increased by over 4 billion people in the last century – an increase of well over 300% between 1900 and 2000. With this population growth, the world’s temperatures have risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and scientists have asserted that this is mainly due to destructive human behaviours. Man has been cutting down whole forests and burning rare fossil fuels the world over for hundreds upon hundreds of years, polluting the planet’s waters and soils in the process. As a result, arctic ice is decreasing at a startling rate and entire species have been rendered endangered or extinct. Like the Asian Long-Horned Beetle we destroy forests, and like the Cotton Whitefly we’ve conquered almost every corner of the planet. We humans aren’t just destroying other species and our own habitat though; we’re doing a number on our own race. Popular scientific opinions holds that an increase in extremely destructive and tragic natural disasters like wildfires and tropical storms – causing innumerable human deaths – can be chalked up to global warming. Of course, let’s not forget the role man played in introducing the other destructive species on our list into foreign ecosystems. With all the evidence, it seems the truly ‘inconvenient truth’ is that the planet would be healthier without us.
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