Exciting New Vertebrate Faunas in Georgia and Florida

North America suffered a devastating loss of vertebrate diversity about 10,000 years ago when men overhunted the most impressive species on the continent to extinction.  So it’s ironic that man is now the agent adding species to North America’s fauna by transporting them from other continents.  The new arrivals that survive are often the species most difficult for man to eradicate, unlike the maladapted Pleistocene megafauna.  Silly alarmists refer to these species as invasive (as if man himself was not invasive and belongs everywhere).  Most are beneficial additions that increase diversity to an environment left impoverished by the end Pleistocene extinction and the activities of industrial age man.  I’m rooting for the “invaders” and against wildlife officials attempting exterminate the newcomers.

The walking catfish (Claria batrachus) is an amazing import from Indonesia. It has been slithering around Florida since the 1960s, and fishermen have begun catching them in the Flint River, Georgia.  It lives in mud puddles, flooded roadside ditches, and other ephemeral bodies of water; and accordingly does not compete with native fishes.  Studies show it takes fewer tadpoles than native mosquito fish and does not pose an undue threat to amphibians.  They have the ability to wriggle across the ground and seek bodies of water when their puddle dries up, making them well adapted to Florida’s fluctuating water levels.

Walking Catfish (Clarias batrachus) make their way across land to spawn in small rainpools Stock Photo

The walking catfish is well adapted to environments with fluctuating water levels.

The Nile tilapia (Oreochronis niloticus) is a native of Africa.  They’ve lived in the lower Chattahoochee River, Lake Seminole, and the Apalachicola River since 1991.  Though they inhabit shallow water, studies show they don’t compete with native fish in the wild.  Tilapia is by far the best tasting and most reliable fish sold in the supermarket.  Wild tilapia has dark meat.  Farmed tilapia have been bred to have white meat because it is visibly more appealing.

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Nile tilapia.  Disjunct populations of this species live throughout the southeast.  This is by far the best tasting and most reliable fish in the supermarket.

The black and white tegu (Salvator merianae) is a South American lizard that can grow up to 4 feet long.  This recent escapee has established scattered populations from north Florida to Miami.  They eat alligator and turtle eggs.  There is an overpopulation of alligators and turtles in Florida, so wildlife managers should be thrilled.  Instead, they want to eradicate them.  Black bears were abundant in Florida until late in the 19th century and were formerly a major consumer of alligator and turtle eggs.  Tegus are merely occupying a niche left vacant by the extirpation of black bears.  Along with Nile monitor lizards, another recent colonizer of Florida’s wilds, they are providing a much needed predator in the local ecosystem.

Tegu in Florida

Black and white tegus.  These beneficial predators could help reduce the overpopulation of alligators and turtles in Florida.  The Florida Wildlife Commission asks people to report where these lizards are.  Do not report sightings.  Those redneck assholes at the FWC will just come out and kill them.

The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) is a South American crocodilian that’s been living in southeast Florida since the 1960s.  They are intolerant of cold and can’t expand their range north.  They’re smaller than alligators had have been unable to displace them.

spectacled-caiman

Spectacled caimans now live in southeast Florida.  Cool!

The monk parakeet (Miopsitta monachus) is another native of South America.  This colorful bird has established colonies in New York City, Chicago, Miami, and parks in other cities.  They build huge stick nests that are used by many other species of birds.  Park officials like them because they drive away city pigeons.  Pigeon dung is difficult and costly to remove from statues.  The monk parakeet is an obvious aesthetic replacement for the extinct Carolina parakeet.

Monk parakeet nest in Miami, Florida.  They also live as far north as Chicago and New York City.  Other species of birds use their nests.  Monk parakeets drive away city pigeons.

Fallow deer (Dama dama) are native to Eurasia.  Hunters introduced them to south Georgia early in the 20th century.  This deer varies in color from brownish-red with spots to pure white.  The white individuals are not albino.  They’re raised on ranches and some have escaped, and wild herds live on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

Fallow deer on St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.  The white variety is common.

Two-hundred ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta), a native of Madagascar, roam St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia.  The island serves as an emergency refuge in case they ever become extinct in their native land.  Wildlife officials supplement their diet because the island might not provide enough natural foods.  This is not a problem for the 3 non-native species of primate that have successfully established breeding populations in Florida–rhesus macaques, vervet monkeys, and spider monkeys.

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Ring-tailed lemurs at the North Georgia Zoo.  A semi-wild population of 200 lives on St. Catherine’s Island, Georgia.  They’re kept there in case the population on Madagascar becomes extinct.

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2 Responses to “Exciting New Vertebrate Faunas in Georgia and Florida”

  1. Bob Says:

    “Black and white tegus. These beneficial predators could help reduce the overpopulation of alligators and turtles in Florida. The Florida Wildlife Commission asks people to report where these lizards are. Do not report sightings. Those redneck assholes at the FWC will just come out and kill them.”

    How can you not realize that Argentine Black and White Tegus can and will feed on a wide variety of native Florida wildlife. Look at all the reptiles, birds, and mammals that are state listed in Florida and need protection: http://myfwc.com/media/1515251/threatened_endangered_species.pdf.
    You can’t possibly believe Argentine Black and White Tegus will solely feed on just alligators and turtles and ignore the many native protected reptiles, birds, and mammals in Florida? You are giving horrible information by telling people not to report sightings of invasive tegus. I’m guessing you aren’t a Florida resident and don’t or can’t understand the many threats to the large number of listed species in Florida.

  2. markgelbart Says:

    As I mentioned in my essay, black and white tegus simply replace the role black bears formerly played in the ecosystem.

    Nobody is forcing you to read my “horrible information.”

    If you don’t like my opinion, you can start your own blog or go practice auto fellatio for all I care.

    BTW, I thoroughly research all my blog topics before I write my essays. I’ve already read the links you throw my way and remain unconvinced that tegus are a threat, rather than a beneficial addition to the ecosystem.

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