Entitled the ‘New Guinea flatworm’, this flatworm is considered one of the most invasive species in the world. Unfortunately is has found a new home in the dense trees of Florida and it may just as well spread to other states if not controlled.
A slimy slug-looking specimen – scientific name Platydemus manokwari – it’s about two inches long, it’s a shade of murky brown with a beige strip down its center and if you flip it over you’ll see a pale belly with a mouth in the center. Not a pretty sight to behold if you just want to enjoy a nice picnic under a tree?
When touched, its bristles break off into the skin causing a painful skin reaction that can result in fever, vomiting and a trip to the hospital.
It’s not necessarily dangerous to humans, but it can wreak havoc on the local ecosystem by snacking on all the snails and earthworms. These species can help support agriculture and provide food for other animals higher up on the food chain.
This icky creepy crawley has already made its way to France, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Tahiti and other nations, according to the study in the journal PeerJ.
Now it has been spotted in several gardens in Miami, Florida, and experts fear that it may upset the local ecosystem by eating earthworms and native snails that are important for soil and plants. The flatworm, which is native to the island of New Guinea, also doesn’t have many known predators. Birds are turned off by its strong taste.
“This should be considered a significant threat to the whole of the US and even to the rest of the Americas,” said the study led by Jean-Lou Justine of the Institute of Systematics, Evolution and Biodiversity in Paris.
“The record in Florida is of particular concern because it is in mainland America,” the study said.
“Until now infested territories were mostly islands and the spread of the species from island to island is limited.”
The flatworm can “easily be passively spread with infested plants, plant parts and soil,” the article added