The invading Asian mollusk


A fisherman in Uruguay.


Pablo Porciuncula

The Asian longhorned beetle has been eating trees in the United States. The Central American feverfew weed threatens animal migration on the African Serengeti. Cane toads are invading Australia.

It's not just goods and people moving around the planet at warp speeds — species too are abandoning their native continents and taking up residence around the world.

Some scientists fear disaster, while others think it's great for biological diversity.

But it's probably not good news for Argentine and Uruguayan fishermen that an Asian mollusk has arrived on their shores.

Originally from China, the invasive species was first detected in the Rio Plate in 1998, but has spread in recent years, according to a statement from Argentina's National Council for Scientific and Technological Research (CONICET).

Scientists believe the Rapana Venosa mollusk was carried to the South American coast by commercial ships from Asia or the Black Sea.

The unwanted visitor eats clams, which are needed to feed several species of commercially important fish. It has no natural predators, had adapted rapidly to the new coast and is a threat to clams, mussels and oysters. 

The snail has also invaded the shores of Italy, France and the Chesapeake Bay. It was the main cause behind the collapse of several oyster and mussel fisheries in the Black Sea, where fishermen began to harvest it and sell it to Asia for culinary consumption.

The University of the Republic in Uruguay last year published Wild West-style reward posters offering 1 peso for each captured snail, dead or alive.

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Photos from CONICET