Pet snakes could be next big eco-menace

Scientists at USGS released a 300-page report today detailing the vulnerability of U.S. lands to invasion by large snakes from other continents. The report finds that Burmese pythons, northern and southern African pythons, boa constrictors and yellow anacondas are a high-risk animal for invasion. The report echoes the unfortunate situation on the America territory of Guam, where introduced brown tree snakes have extirpated most forest...

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Invasive tree disease disrupts pine/bird mutualism

Many trees with large seeds rely on vertebrate seed predators to disperse their seeds. The whitebark pine, a key subalpine species, has coevolved with the Clark’s nutcracker into a tight mutualism.  In their paper in the April Ecological Applications, Shawn McKinney, a post-doc at the University of Montana, and his colleagues studied a natural disruption to this mutualism: an invasive tree fungus. Clark’s nutcrackers feed...

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Asian oyster idea nixed for Chesapeake

The state governments of Maryland and Virginia, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, announced yesterday that Asian oysters will not be allowed in the Chesapeake bay. The decision capped a five-year study on the nonnative oyster to assess its potential to replace the rapidly diminishing native Eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica. The decision ultimately came down to the Army Corps of engineers, since Virginia officials supported...

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The ecology within

The concept of biological control is no new idea in ecology – people have been transporting living things to control other living things since the late 18th century. The most famous examples seem to be the big failures, where biocontrols become invasive themselves – such as mongooses introduced to Hawaii to control rats but that instead decimated populations of native birds. Geneticists at the University of Queensland have now...

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When scientific fiction replaces good science

Good science writers – as with all reporters – should verify the validity of their stories before publishing, making sure to cite the peer-reviewed research detailing a new discovery. But as in the case of the purported cane toad-eating frog, an exciting enough fact with weak empirical support can sometimes take off like….well, an invasive species. In 2005 and 2006, several media sources (including the Australian Broadcasting...

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