Ok, so they aren’t plants. But they are invasive.
Update, Oct. 2015: Check out the bottom of the post for an opportunity to win things and contribute to the science of science blogging!
Nutria (Myocastor coypus), a semi aquatic mammal from South America, is now heavily invasive in southeastern North America, and has been widely introduced to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Nutria were introduced primarily for their fur, and are tasty critters as well, but their remarkably destructive feeding habits have earned them well deserved infamy among local biologists. They look like big swimming rats with scary teeth, basically.
North American beaver (Castor canadensis), a semi aquatic mammal from North America, is now heavily invasive in the Tierra del Fuego region of South America. Beavers were introduced primarily for their fur, and are tasty critters as well, but their remarkably destructive dam building habits have earned them well deserved infamy among local biologists. They look like big swimming rats with scary teeth, basically.
Nutria are spreading into Canada. And the national animal of Canada is returning the favor, and spreading into Argentina. THIS BLOWS MY MIND. Invasive species are great to study because you can take advantage of just this sort of ‘natural’ experiment (ok, not really natural). This is already set up as what evolutionary biologists call a reciprocal transplant experiment. Both these critters do well on their home turf, but perhaps they do even better away? In the southeastern US, nutria appear to be pushing beavers out of their old territories. How will the interaction play out in the home of nutria? This situation would be great for addressing questions about the ecology and evolution of invasive species, the interchangeability of species that do the same sorts of things (Neutral Theory), and local adaptation. Does that ring your scientific bell? Because it sure does mine.Update, Oct. 2015: Help us do science! I’ve teamed up with researcher Paige Brown Jarreau to create a survey of AlienPlantation readers. By participating, you’ll be helping me improve AlienPlantation and contributing to SCIENCE on blog readership. You will also get FREE science art from Paige’s Photography for participating, as well as a chance to win a t-shirt and a $50.00 Amazon.com gift card! It should only take 10-15 minutes to complete. You can find the survey here: http://bit.ly/mysciblogreaders.