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Aliens are real!

August 2, 2017

When someone mentions aliens we immediately think of the short green guys from outer space. However the definition of an alien species is technically a species that is outside its normal distribution range. So a human on Antarctica would be an alien. I recently discovered a new alien species on the family farm. But before we get into that, I would like to review a few terms used when discussing aliens.

An Invasive Species is defined by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources as an alien species whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. An example of an invasive species is the Emerald Ash Borer. This invasive insect feeds exclusively on ash trees and usually kills the tree in 3-4 years.

A Non-Native Species as called an Alien Species is any species found outside of its native habitat or normal range of distribution. A great example of a non-native species is the Ring-necked Pheasant. These birds are native to Asia and were introduced into the United States as a game bird.

A Noxious Weed is defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has defined as a plant that is determined to be injurious to public health, crops, livestock, agricultural land, and other properties. One example of a noxious weed is Multiflora Rose. This plant was brought into the United States to be used as wildlife habitat and living fence. However the plant grows very rapidly, is hard to control, and is a host for diseases that affect ornamental rose bushes.

Alright now back to my recent alien discovery at the family farm.

In the pictures above you can see what has been identified as a Japanese Mystery Snail. I spotted 7 of them in one small area along the edge of the farm pond. As the name suggests it is native to Japan. These are large golf ball sized snails with an operculum or trapdoor. This “trapdoor” allows the snail to survive days out of water because they can completely close their shell. The female Japanese Mystery Snail gives birth to live crawling young. From what I’ve read scientists haven’t decided officially if the Japanese Mystery Snail is an invasive species or simply an alien. These snails are larger than most of our native freshwater snails. Large populations of the Japanese Mystery Snail can out compete native species for food and potentially block drain pipes. So for now I am going to monitor the population of snails in the farm pond and wait to see what else the science community discovers about these snails.

Keep your eyes peeled because aliens are real and you never know they might be hiding out in your backyard!

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