Globalization of commerce, especially by ships and air traffic, transports hitchhiking plants and animals around the world and in many cases they become pests in the new location –– according to an article in the February 6 issue of the journal Nature. One advantage that could explain their success is that the invaders often arrive without the parasites that hold them in check at home.
Compares the European green crab with parasites and a larger crab without parasites. Photo credit: Jeff Goddard, UCSB
First author Mark E. Torchin, assistant research biologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said that the team of authors analyzed 26 invading animal species –– mollusks, crustaceans, fishes, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles –– chosen randomly, and found that, in general, the introduced populations had only half as many parasites as native populations.
"On average, an animal has 16 parasites at home, but brings less than three of these to new areas that it invades," said Torchin. "In the new region, parasites are not well matched to novel hosts, and only about four parasites will successfully attack an invading species."
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