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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Living on Earth Almanac

Air Date: Week of

This week, fact about....introduced species disasters.


CURWOOD: Sixty-three years ago, more than 100 cane toads were shipped from Hawaii to Queensland, Australia. They were supposed to rid the continent of the troublesome sugar cane grub. But like so many introduced species, the toads soon turned the tables. Today, they are the pests, running rampant all over Australia, a result of prolific breeding. Introduced species, or exotics, often wreak havoc on unprepared ecosystems. The Indian mongoose was introduced to Hawaii to cut the rat population there, but ended up eating just about everything else, including several endangered bird species. Islands tend to be most vulnerable to exotics, but even the mainland isn't immune. In the continental US, a third of the animals on the Endangered Species List landed there because of exotics. Sometimes exotics take over so quickly they seem to be natives. In 1877 the Russian thistle was introduced in South Dakota and soon spread throughout the west. Today we know it as the tumbleweed. And for this week, that's the Living on Earth Almanac.



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