The Top 5 Most Invasive Animal Species

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There’s a good reason why it was the remote Galapagos Islands that inspired Sir Charles Darwin to formulate his theory of evolution through natural selection: The islands represented a closed environment, in which the animal and plant life had been allowed to develop over many centuries (and maybe millennia) without disturbance from external factors. When a new species is introduced to an established ecosystem, the results usually head in one of two general directions. First, the new species flounders or even just dies out. Second, the new species can set up shop in a major way, wreaking havoc on the established order.

5 Red Palm Weevil

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Another visitor from Southeast Asia is the red palm weevil, an awful looking beetle about the size of a kid’s thumb, and capable of utterly devastating plant life. Their meal of choice is, no surprise, the palm tree. Thus when this weevil was discovered in imported palm trees in the greater Los Angeles area in 2010, an area with a whole lot of palm trees, it was far from good news. The adult red palm weevil can live more than three months, producing multiple generations during its lifetime, which just sucks if you’re a palm tree.

4 Nutria

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Known as the coypu in its native South American region, and prized for its fur in many parts of the world, the creature we call the nutria is one of America’s most invasive mammal species ever. Nutria can weigh up to 20 pounds, can swim well and run fast, and breed like the rodents they are. They cause great damage to natural habitats, especially wetlands, and can have population blooms in city and suburban areas as well, potentially spreading disease.

3 Sea Lamprey

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If there’s any fish more foul and disgusting than the sea lamprey, please don’t tell us about it. These creatures are essentially tubes with mouths on one end, and these mouths are essentially cones of teeth and razor sharp tongues. The lamprey hooks itself onto its victim and slowly bores into the unlucky fish, using an anticoagulant in its mouth to stop the fish’s blood from clotting and its wound from healing. And guess what? While the name “sea lamprey” clearly points to their traditional habitats in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, now these wretched beasts are taking up residence throughout the Great Lakes!

2 Tiger Mosquito

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When an insect is named after an apex predator, you know you’re in trouble. Thus it is that the tiger mosquito is the frequent bearer of bad news, often in the form of dengue fever or West Nile virus. This black-and-white striped little bloodsucker is native to Southeast Asia, but these days, “thanks” to hitching rides on international trade vessels, it can be found on every continent except Australia or, we assume, Antarctica.

1 Burmese Pythons

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Burmese pythons come from the jungles near Burma (AKA Myanmar), which is why they’re called “Burmese,” see? But they’ve taken up residence throughout much of the Florida Everglades region, and are killing the hell out of local, native species, such as the endangered (and charming!) wood rat, and much larger prey. These pythons, which can grow to nearly 15 feet in length, initially consisted of pets that escaped or were released, but have since grown to number in the tens of thousands in the wild. The area already has the alligator; we don’t need another terrifying death reptile, OK? So enough with the huge snakes as pets.

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