The highly invasive New Guinea Flatworm reaches US mainland and poses a great threat to snails and thus, to a great part of the environment.
The New Guinea flatworm is a 65 mm long olive black worm, with a beige belly. It actually has its bucal cavity on the ventral part of its body and on its dorsal side two black eyes stand out. It also has a long white stripe all that passes through its black side, that is a characteristic feature of the species.
It is known worldwide for its exacerbated appetite for snails. Upon its entry into a new habitat, snail populations are decimated soon after, leaving that habitat without a food source for very many animals, including birds, reptiles and mammals. There even are some insects the feed on snails, among those the seemingly harmless firefly.
And snails are not important to the habitat just because of their ability to please the appetite of all of these animals, but also because themselves in turn feed on vegetation that is decomposing and a wide range of fungi and bacteria. Therefore, it has an crucial role in fertilizing the soil and improving its quality.
France has witnessed the insatiable appetite of the New Guinea flatworm firsthand, and is now sharing its knowledge on this extremely vicious pest.
“This should be considered a significant threat to the whole of the US and even to the rest of the Americas.” said Jean-Lou Justine, of the Institute of Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity.
He pointed out that most New Guinea flatworm infestations have occurred on islands until now and therefore, the spread of this slimy foe has been limited by territory. But now it has been identified in Miami, Florida. And since now it has reached the US mainland, it will be much easier for it to spread all across the US unless very tough measures are immediately put into action by the American authorities.
It seems that this flatworm is very easily spread along with plant that are transported on either long or short distances. Due to its particular coloring, it is quite hard to spot in the soil and it can escape undetected almost effortlessly. It has almost no known predators, because it appears that it has a pretty foul taste, at least foul enough for birds to avoid it and so it makes an almost perfect criminal.
The New Guinea flatworm is on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) top 100 most dangerous invasive species list, precisely because of these creepy features and abilities.
The only health risk it poses to humans comes from its role in the transmission of a parasite called Angiostrongylus cantonensis, otherwise known as the rat lungworm. The Platydemus manokwari flatworm is only a paratenic host, which means that it only transports a certain evolutionary stage of the parasite, without it actually developing inside it.
However, it seems that it is quite an effective means of transport for the parasite, as it positions its larvae on cabbage leaves and other vegetables, that constitute one of the means of transmission to humans. Therefore it is extremely important that people wash their vegetables thoroughly, so as to avoid contamination.
The American authorities will have to act quickly and develop effective methods before the vicious New Guinea flatworm settles on US land for good and exterminated all snails out there.
Image Source: independent.co.uk