Florida’s Invasive Species

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Have you ever thought about your pet been eaten by a Tegu lizard, or having to visit a doctor because of an allergic reaction caused by the New Guinea flatworm? Well, I have. Invasive species are something I think about a lot, so I decided to research them to learn what caused Florida’s invasive species problem and its impact. The first question that comes to mind is: What is an invasive species? According to the National Wildlife Federation, invasive species can be any kind of living organism that is not native and causes harm. They can harm the environment, the economy, or even human health.

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One of the worst known invasive species in Florida is the New Guinea flatworm. Yet, what are the main characteristics of the toxic Slimed, Goo-spewing Mouth, Brain-eating parasite? The worm is two inches in length and looks like snot. It’s often found in landscaping and plant pots. “They come in on pretty much everything: cut flowers, imported fruits and vegetables”. Its belly is covered with a toxic slime that may cause an allergic reaction in some people therefore is not recommended to be touched without gloves. The worm has already been found in four locations in Florida including central Florida. According to The University of Florida, there have been 17 reports of flatworms in Indian River County. Not only they can cause real environmental damage, but they also are known to carry a parasite called rat lungworm that can cause an infection in the human brain.

Another invasive species that was transported from its natural habitat in the South Pacific and Indian Ocean to the Coast of Southern Florida in 1985 is the lionfish. Since then, the species have swept up the Eastern seaboard and the Bahamas. Due to their high reproduction rates and not having any known natural predators, they are now more common in the Bahamas than in their original habitats. “They’re moving into new areas and, when they get settled, the population increases pretty quickly.” says Martha Klitzkie, director of operations at the Reef Environmental Education Foundation. (REEF) in Key Largo, Florida. It is believed that since the lionfish are very popular with aquarists, it is possible that repeated escapes into the wild via aquarium releases are the main cause for the invasion. Researchers have discovered that a single lionfish living on a coral reef can reduce the population of native reef fishes by 79 percent. Because lionfish feed on prey normally eaten by snappers, groupers, and other important native species, their presence could negatively affect the well-being of valuable commercial and recreational fisheries.

The Tegu lizard, like many other invasive species, came to the United States as pets. These reptiles are incredibly popular on the international pet trade. According to the National Wild Life Association “Between 2000 and 2015, as many as 79,000 live tegus may have been imported into the U.S.” (Miami Herald). It is believed that the Tegu lizard probably escaped from a breeding facility in Miami-Dade County or abandoned by its keeper. Wildlife preservers fear that the Tegu lizards will spread to the Everglades National Park. They are known to adapt to the subtropical climate, habitats similar to those they left.

In conclusion we can say that invasive species can potentially harm Florida’s ecosystem and throw native population off course, hurt local economies and even threaten human health. It is up to all of us to help stop the propagation of invasive species by complying with local agencies and teaching future generations.     

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Florida's Invasive Species. (2021, Apr 05). Retrieved November 30, 2022 , from
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