The Worst Invasive Amphibian and Reptile Species

By Sharon Omondi on June 15 2018 in Environment

Red-eared sliders compete with the native turtles for habitat, food, and other resources.
Red-eared sliders compete with the native turtles for habitat, food, and other resources.

Invasive species are those that were introduced to a specific habitat and have since spread causing widespread damage to the habitat and other animals. Although it is difficult to identify which invasive species are worse than others, the IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group has managed to narrow down the list to include 3 amphibians and 2 reptiles in the Global Invasive Species Database. These are the worst invasive species of amphibians and reptiles in the world.

5. Bufo Marinus

Bufo marinus is the scientific name for cane toads. The cane toads are also known as marine toads or giant toads. They are native to South and Central America. One advantage of the cane toads is that they eradicate beetles from sugar canes. It is for this reason that they were introduced to other parts of the world such as Australia. However, before long, the population of the toads grew so much that they turned into pests and started becoming destructive. Since it is carnivorous, it threatens the native species through predation. Mature cane toads grow up to 15 cm in length. They are carnivores which are classified as amphibians. The cane toads have a lifespan of 10-15 years. Its predators include snakes, birds, and dogs. Cane toads produce bufotenine toxin used by Native South Americans to make poisonous arrows. The poison is also used by Japanese as aphrodisiac and hair restorer. The bufotenine toxin also lowers the heart rate of patients during cardiac surgery. Although the toxin in the cane toads is beneficial, it is also harmful especially to other amphibian species. They are highly toxic to any animal that feeds on them. Consequently, there have been efforts targeted at getting rid of the cane toads. These efforts have not been successful due to the high population of the cane toads.

4. Eleutherodactylus Coqui

Eleutherodactylus coqui is the scientific name for Coqui frog. It is a round-bodied, small tree frog native to Puerto Rico. However, they have spread to other surrounding islands such as Hawaii. They are often brown or gray-brown. The Coqui frog lives on the ground, bushes, and trees. It is known for the high-pitched mating calls made by the males at night. The Coqui frog has very high populations. The reason for this is that there are no natural predators that can keep the numbers in check. Consequently, there are 55,000 frogs per hectare in some parts of Hawaii. The frogs feed on vast quantities of insects resulting in fewer insects in the ecosystem. Subsequently, there are challenges with the growth of the plants since pollination rarely takes place. The invasiveness of the Coqui frog leads to decreased plant exports and adverse impact on the tourism sector. Furthermore, the disclosure requirement for real estate owners has led to low rates of property development in some areas. One of the measures that have been in place to reduce the numbers of Coqui frogs is the banning of intentional transport of the frogs in Hawaii. Another method used to get rid of the eggs is a hot shower treatment of the plants in the commercial nurseries. There also ongoing field trials on a spray that will be used in the future.

3. Lithobates Catesbeianus

Lithobates catesbeianus is the scientific name for the American bullfrog. Its name comes from the deep, resonant croaks that are characteristic of its species. The frog spends most of its life either in water or near water. It is native to eastern North America and south-eastern Canada. The introduction of the bullfrog to other parts of the world has been a threat to the native species of those lands. The frogs are invasive in the form of predation and competition. They are known to prey on endangered species such as the Armagosa toad, Chiricahua leopard frog, and Oregon spotted frog. The bullfrogs are also feared to be carriers of chytrid fungus which causes Chytridiomycosis disease in amphibians. Getting rid of the bullfrogs has been a challenge for two reasons. One, the bullfrog can travel for very long distances hence covering a vast portion of land. Secondly, the juvenile frogs colonize new ponds very easily. Consequently, recolonization often takes place rendering the eradication programs ineffective. Nevertheless, some of the measures used to eradicate the bullfrogs include catching the tadpoles using double fyke nets, prohibiting new introductions, shooting, angling, traps, and use of bow and arrows among others.

2. Boiga irregularis

Boiga irregularis is a brown tree snake which is mildly poisonous. It was first discovered in Guam in the 1950s. People believe that the snake accidentally got to Guam through imported cargo. The brown tree snake is a slender, climbing snake. Its eyes are large and possess a vertical pupil. The vertical pupil explains its improved night vision. The brown tree snake is invasive in several ways. Firstly, it has decimated and even led to the extinction of Guam’s native bird and bat species. Secondly, the snake is responsible for one per 1,000 infants and young children that are hospitalized due to its venom bites. The brown tree snakes also cause power outages by climbing on electric wires. They are also considered agricultural pests. Several measures have been put in place to reduce the brown snake’s population. The measures include the use of barriers, traps, oral toxicants, detection dog teams, and toxic bait. Furthermore, the snakes can also die naturally due to extremely hot or cold temperatures.

1. Trachemys Scripta Elegans

Trachemys scripta elegans is the scientific name for the red-eared slider. The red-eared slider is a freshwater turtle that is unique for its prominent red to yellow patches on both sides of the head. The turtle can survive in the wild for as long as 40 years. It is native to the Mississippi Valley and the Tennessee and Cumberland River valleys. The red-eared slider is a threat to the endangered species such as the European pond turtle. They are a threat because they compete with the native turtles for habitat, food, and other resources. Besides, its release into the natural ecosystem also poses the risk of parasite transmission. Moreover, the sliders are carriers of Salmonella which leads to the disease known as salmonellosis in humans. The current strategies used to manage the populations of the red-eared sliders include baited traps, euthanizing them, hunting adults, sterilizing them, and collecting eggs and hatchlings.

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