Invasive Species In United States

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There is a crisis that is sweeping America. One might ask, what crisis? A forest fire, a hurricane, climate change? No, this crisis is quietly destroying life as we know it. It is invasive species. Invasive species are animals or plants that are not native to an ecosystem and cause harm to the animal and plant life that lives there. Lionfish and burmese pythons are eating all of the prey in their areas. Nutria are destroying habitats while northern snakeheads are invading them. Invasive species in the United States like the nutria, lionfish, northern snakehead, and burmese python are causing chaos for humans and animals in our society.

One invasive species that is threatening America today is the nutria. The Nutria looks like a mix between a rat and a beaver. Their fur looks very shaggy. Nutria can weigh anywhere from 15 to 22 pounds, can be 17 to 25 inches long, and their tails can grow up to 16 inches. Nutria are mammals which means that they don’t lay eggs. They are omnivores so they eat both plants and meat. Their diet is made up of small creatures, snails, and mussels. Nutria can live up to 10 years. Female nutria can have 2 to 3 litters a year and can have 5 to 7 young in each litter. The young remain with their mothers for 1 or 2 months before going out. Nutria are not solitary and live together in large colonies. Nutria live in the water and on land. Most often they burrow near water along riverbanks and lakeshores. They have webbed feet and can stay submerged for up to 5 minutes (National Geographic). Nutria first appeared in the United States in Washington during the 1930s (Nutria, Invasive Species Council Priority Species). Nutria were farmed for their undercoat of fur also called nutria. Some of them escaped from fur farms and established a rapidly growing population (National Geographic). Nutria eat the roots and stems of plants so they destroy 10 times more plants than they eat. Nutria are also destroying habitats. They wreak havoc on marshes that provide a habitat for animals like birds and fish. Riparian areas are turned into bogs because of nutria. When nutria construct their burrows in places like embankments and dikes it causes the banks to erode and collapse (Nutria, Invasive Species Council Priority Species).

A second invasive species that is threatening America is the lionfish. Lionfish have a mix of brown, maroon, and white stripe covering their bodies and heads. They have 13 dorsal spines that stick out of their backs (What is a Lionfish). Lionfish can weigh up to 2.6 pounds and can be anywhere from 11.8 to 15 inches long. Lionfish are carnivores which means that they eat only meat (Red Lionfish). (7)Lionfish eat almost any prey species in coral reefs (What is a Lionfish). Lionfish can live for up to 15 years (Red Lionfish). They live in coral reefs in depths from 1 to 300 feet. Lionfish first appeared in Southern Florida in 1985 and may have been intentionally released. They are the top predator in Atlantic coral reefs and eat over 50 species of fish. This really hurts the coral reefs because prey species are declining. Lionfish can also be harmful to humans. Their spines are extremely venomous and if you get stung the effects can last for days. The stings cause extreme pain, paralysis, sweating, and respiratory problems (What is a Lionfish).

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