Sunday, September 7, 2014

Nonnatives vs invasive species

My posts concerning the Florida Keys have all been fluffy and full of pretty pictures and cute animals. I’ve decided that for this entry, if there’s anyone out there reading this, then I will teach you something!

I want to discuss native/nonnative/invasive species. I live in an area that is warm– nay, HOT, all year round. There is this general rule, that the closer you get to the equator, the more diverse the flora and fauna is. As far as American soil goes, I’m pretty much as close to the equator as one can be (OK, fine Puerto Rico is closer, but I’m talking STATES here people). Let’s define these terms, shall we? Then I can be on my way and get to the cool pictures I’ve been wanting to share with my blogosphere friends.

(I’ve kind of gleaned these definitions from various sources, and recollections from undergrad courses, and mushed them into the following…and I’m speaking to North America)

Native: those species present pre European settlement
Nonnative: species introduced intentionally or unintentionally post European settlement
Invasive: species that have a negative impact on the economy, environment, and/or human health.

It’s important to note as well, that not all nonnatives (or sometimes referred to as introduced species) are invasive, and sometimes natives can becoming invasive.

A male Ring-necked Pheasant, seen in the
Finger Lakes region of NY. Photo credit: Art Kirsch
Here are some examples: the Ring-necked Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) ranges across North America, and was brought here in the 1880′s from Asia, as a game species (All About Birds: Ring-necked Pheasant). Back in those days, this was common practice, and in some parts of the world it still is. This bird is a popular upland game bird hunted by many, but it’s not a species that has not become invasive. In fact, in New York for example, the population isn’t as abundant as hunters would like, so there’s a Pheasant Propagation Program. An example of a invasive nonnative species in NY, is the Eurasian boar (Sus scrofa Linnaeus). They are aggressive, compete for food with native species (black bear, Turkey, white-tailed deer), and they can destroy crops and agricultural lands. This is not a species NY wants on it’s landscape. For more info: NYSDEC: Eurasian boar.
Ok, so the point of all that information, was to provide you, the reader, with some definitions and information. I really wanted this posted to be all about the cool reptiles and amphibians I’ve seen in the Florida Keys. Unfortunately, many of the “herps” down here are nonnative and invasive. Here’s what I’ve seen, by order of discovery!

*Please note that my classifications of what is invasive, may be incorrect. This is information that I’ve learned living and working here, but may differ by opinion, agency, and location.

Six-lined racerunner (Cnemidophorus sexlineatus sexlineatus), NATIVE, No Name Key, FL, June 2014
Brown/Cuban anole (Anolis sangrei), NON-NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014

Rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014
Green iguana (Iguana iguana), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014

Cuban treefrog (Osteopilus septentrionalis), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014
Mediterranean gecko (Hemidactlyus turcicus, turcicus), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014
Florida softshell (Trionix ferox), NONNATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, June 2014

Southern leopard frog (Rana spenocephala), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, July 2014

Juvenile ashy gecko (Sphaerodactylus elegans), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, July 2014

Key ringneck snake (Diadophis punctatus acricus), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, August 2014

Eastern narrowmouth toad (Gastrophrynae carolinensis), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, August 2014

Green anoles (Anolis carolinensis carolinensis), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL, August 2014
*Note, these individuals are copulating in this picture. The female is smaller.

-Tokay gecko (Gekko gekko), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, Big Pine Key, September 2014 (Look these guys up on YouTube... they TALK!)
Other reptiles observed, but lacking photos:
-Southern black racer (Coluber constrictor priapus), NATIVE, Big Pine Key, FL June 2014
-Atlantic green turtle (Chelonia mydas mydas), NATIVE, Open ocean in Key West NWR, June 2014
-Black spinytail iguana (Ctenosaura similis), NON NATIVE/INVASIVE, No Name Key, June 2014
-American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), NATIVE, Key Largo, FL, July 2014

Many, if not most of these reptiles/amphibians, were released pets at one point. This is not only illegal, but unfair to that individual critter. The way someone once described this scenario to me, is to imagine yourself naked, without ID or money, and suddenly finding yourself in a foreign country. Now try to survive. Oh, and by the way it might snow and freeze on you! Other ways animals are finding their ways around, are as stowaways. As kids, my mom found an anole in BJs, in Albany. We don’t have those types of lizards in NY, nor does BJs have a pet department. A shipment of plants from a nursery in Florida had recently come in. Guess which kid got a free pet lizard that day?! This happens on cargo, freight, boats, cars, trains, etc. regularly.

The point of this entry was not to bore you with definitions, but to share some of the neat slimy and scaly wildlife I’ve seen this summer. It’s all cool to me, and I learned most of these guys in the herpetology course I took last year at SUNY Cobleskill. I just hope no one ends up in my car for the drive back to NY the end of this month!


  1. Wow, great photos, sex on a leaf!! and tiny ones on your hand, this was great reading, Safe travel back to NY. Cheers,Jean. p,s, stunning markings on every one too.

  2. Such beautiful photography!! I love all your pictures! :)


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