How Bad Is It? Notorious Invasive Worm Enters U.S.

Dean Chambers

A new invasive kind of worm has entered the United States and it's not just like the worms we typically see on the ground, Disovery News is reporting. The species is called the New Guinea flatworm, and it has been found recently in Florida. The worm is on the "100 worst invasive alien species" list and can be found in New Caledonia, Singapore, the Solomon Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida.

The New Guinea flatworm lives on the ground, but it can also climb trees, going after prey to consume. The worms feasts on mollusks, which may threaten their populations. Researchers say the presence of this worm in Florida should be considered a major threat to other areas of the U.S. if it spreads to other states.

This was the first time the worm has been discovered in the U.S., NBC News reports. The invasive worm, which is a threat to native snails, is considered to be among the 100 worst invasive species on the planet according to the Invasive Species Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"The New Guinea flatworm (Platydemus manokwari) is only a couple of millimeters thick but grows to be up to 2.5 inches (65 millimeters) long. As its name suggests, the worm is a New Guinea native, but it has been spreading across the globe, hitching rides on exotic plants and in soil. The worm wraps itself around snails and ingests them with a mouthlike structure on its underside," NBC News reports.

The work has been found in 15 countries, but this is the first time is has shown up in North America. It is believed the worm arrived in Florida in 2012 and has been found in several places in Miami-Dade County.

Livescience describes the species as "a bizarre invasive worm with its mouth in the middle of its belly (that) has been found in the United States for the first time, according to new research."

"The discovery of the flatworm in the United States is particularly concerning because the flatworm had previously been confined mostly to small islands, they added. From Florida, however, P. manokwari could easily spread to the rest of the United States and the Americas," Livescience reported.

Do you think this worm appearing in the United States is a threat or a concern? Do you wonder how bad it is? Are you concerned that it should be eliminated or that it might not be able to be eliminated, if it's a threat?

[Photo of New Guinea Flatworm from The Washington Post.]