Image via – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platydemus_manokwari
Snails might well be one of the signature dishes in France, but the sad fact is that they could become as rare as truffles soon, if an invasion by a slimy predator – the voracious species called the New Guinea flatworm – from Southeast Asia, is not soon brought under control, scientists have warned.
This terrible scourge – already on a list of the 100 most dangerous invasive species in the world – is wreaking havoc on snail and earthworm populations in northern England, having a relentless appetite for such native species wherever it appears.
It was gardeners at a Caen, Normandy botanical gardens who discovered an odd-looking, dark, flat worm among greenhouse plants, and when tested, this did indeed turn out to be an example of the dreaded species Platydemus manokwari – described by dismayed experts as extraordinarily invasive – and in need of being stopped ASAP. The effect on French cuisine could be disastrous as all snails in Europe could be wiped out by this miniature monster, just 5 cm long by 5 mm wide.
You can easily recognise this creature, as the back is a black olive colour, the belly pale white, with a long head holding two prominent black eyes – so great is the appetite for snail with this little monster that it can even pursue gastropods up tree trunks, starting in on earthworms when all snails have been killed off. These fearsome beasts actually hail from the mountains of New Guinea, above at altitudes 10,000 ft, but tests revealed their ability to survive temperatures as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
This means it can cope with the climate in the parts of Europe that are more temperate and snail-friendly, and thus represent a significant new threat to biodiversity there, especially endangered and protected species of snail, so eradication and control of this flatworm is of vital importance.
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