8 Species That Are Threatening to Swarm the Globe

As human beings, if there's one thing we're really, really good at, it's driving species to extinction. You're probably doing it right now, without even trying. So it's paradoxical that there are some species out there that we just can't exterminate, and not for want of trying. These creatures breed out of control and march steadily forth, taking human territory miles at a time. So while you're sitting there, calmly reading things on the Internet ...

#8. Zebra Mussels Are Choking the Rivers

What happens when a creature can produce one million eggs a year? This.

They all have names, and at least 40,000 are called Dave.

Those are zebra mussels. They invaded the USA by hitching rides in the ballast water of Russian ships, and once they hit the rivers in the U.S., they spread rapidly, dominating the Great Lakes. So what's the big deal? It's not like they bite or anything. Well, zebra mussels only do one thing, but it turns out that they're really, really good at it: They stick.

Sailors call them "Congressmen of the Sea."

All they need is a hard surface that stays still for 20 seconds, and they'll superglue themselves right on that shit, covering boats, anchors, motors, lobsters, turtles and even other mussels. Those who can't grab hold of anything wind up washing up by the tons on beaches.

This isn't just inconvenient for turtles who suddenly find themselves weighed down in a sticky mussel flash mob -- the cost to us is catastrophic. In 1989, for example, a city in Michigan lost its water supply for three days because the mussels had crammed themselves into the pipe, cementing it shut.

"We're going to need all the Drano."

Since then, millions of dollars have been spent each year attempting to control the legions of mussels, but we can only slow them down. They can't be eradicated with chemicals without contaminating the water supply, and they multiply too quickly to remove by hand.

In short, these mussels are kicking our asses, which is pretty good for an animal that doesn't know how to move or do anything.

It's like a sit-in protest against the whole of humanity.

#7. Cownose Rays Are Storming the Beaches


What you're looking at up there is a picture of thousands upon thousands of cownose rays taken by Florian Schulz, the CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year in 2010. While up close it looks like it would fit right in as an ancillary character in a movie about a cartoon clownfish ...

Voiced by Cameron Diaz.

... what these animals lack in intimidation they more than make up for in Persians-at-Thermopylae-style invasion numbers.

Ever since humans were considerate enough to overfish their main predators (sharks), the cownose ray population has exploded like a meth lab all over the east coasts of the American continents from New England to Brazil, and have established a presence on the African west coast. Wherever they go, they devastate the local oysters, clams and scallops, as well as the industries that rely on them.

It's like an Escher painting come alive.

In an attempt to encourage stingray murder while also trying to come up with a replacement for the decimated shellfish crop, Virginia state officials had a novel idea: Put the rays on the menu. They renamed the cownose ray the more delectable "Chesapeake ray" (because who would ever want to eat a cow), and hyped the critters as having a taste similar to veal. Cooking demonstrations were held and recipes were promoted by famous chefs, but results were described as "less than impressive."

People are picky about what planet-engulfing creatures they want to eat.

Well, shit, what are we going to do about these massive swarms of rays, then? Looks like it's time for science to finally breed those megasharks the SyFy network has been promising us.

#6. Water Chestnuts Are Killing the Lakes


In the late 1800s, a Harvard botanist decided to import some European water chestnut for his personal garden. You would think that, if anyone should know better, it would be a Harvard botanist. You'd think wrong. Within a couple of years, the plant found its way into the Charles River in Massachusetts, where it established a home base and commenced world domination.

At least they left us some.

The water chestnut doesn't sound threatening, but it's nothing less than the Roman Empire of plant species. It covers every square inch of the water with a canopy so dense that boats can't push through it. This blocks all sunlight from reaching the lake bed, which kills the native plant life, which in turn kills the fish. All of this watery death creates a nice, decomposing stew of horrors that the water chestnut just loves to eat.

Not a golf course.

And so it grows. And oh man does it grow. One acre of the chestnut can turn into 100 acres in under a year. Give it another year, and everything is dead. The only way that you can combat it is to wade through the water, pulling the individual plants out by hand. And you have to do it quickly enough that you get all the plants before they go to seed. If you miss that deadline, then every plant you just neglected your family for a year to pull out of the ground is going to sprout right back up again.

Did we mention that they're covered all over with sharp barbs? Because they're covered with sharp barbs.

Kristine Paulus
That look like the jaws of a Predator.

The water chestnut is currently expanding its empire throughout the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. The only thing keeping us alive is that it hasn't yet found a way to live outside of the water. But just you wait. There will come a morning when the sun won't rise, and then you'll know.

Don't try to save them. They're already dead.

#5. Formosan Termites Destroyed a Major City


That's not rain below -- those are Formosan termites. But if you know termites, you know that the real problems don't come when they're whizzing around in the air -- it's when they settle down to start eating buildings.

"Just pretend it's something wholesome, like acid rain."

And, where a regular termite colony will usually eat about 7 pounds of wood per year, a colony of Formosan termites, which came to the U.S. from Asia at the end of World War II, will eat about 1,000 pounds. And they don't stop there. If they get thirsty, they can chew through concrete or plastic to get to water, which often results in exploding pipes. While other termite colonies may be made up of hundreds of thousands, Formosan termite colonies can number in the millions. And once they're established, they've never been successfully eradicated.

"Sup. We like your basement. Oh by the way, you have a basement now."

And get this: After the levees in New Orleans failed when Hurricane Katrina hit, victims sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the disaster. But some scientists say there should have been other defendants in the case. Because five years before the dikes were breached, a college professor named Gregg Henderson discovered Formosan termite tunnels throughout the seams of the dike. After the flooding was over, he went back and examined the flood walls of London Avenue Canal, where two major breaks had occurred, and found that 70 percent of the seams had termite holes. Which would make the Formosan termite the only known insect that can actually destroy a major city.

Clearly the government's attempt to get them the hell out of New Orleans in 1998, Operation Full Stop, was completely ineffective against the first wave of termite warfare.

When termites construct support beams, they effectively own the house.

Now property damage has become an issue of national safety. And the only way we can fight them is with these silly looking fumigation circus tents (you don't want to breathe the kind of chemicals it takes to kill these bastards), which really only drive the termites away, because it makes them think clowns are going to show up.

Monterey Public Library

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