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Online Extra
March 2005

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Tracking Down Invaders

Alien Invaders Online Extra
Photograph by Melissa Farlow

"It's a never ending battle to keep it back," says Daisy Millsaps, whose son, Jason, rips into a tangle of kudzu to uncover a car in his Georgia yard. The "vine that ate the South," kudzu was imported from Japan in the late 1800s for erosion control and animal feed. But the vine took off, spreading more than 1.5 million acres (600,000 hectares) in the United States. "I've measured a foot a day," says Daisy.

By Cassandra Franklin-Barbajosa

It's the stuff of sci-fi films: Rapidly growing vines that cling to and choke everything they touch; fish that look startlingly like snakes and have a voracious appetite for other fish in rivers and streams; stinging fire ants that can devour lawns, gardens, small animals, and you. Such invasive species are taking over worldwide and—in some cases—causing economic damage in the millions.

Now you can find out what the alien invaders in your area are. The Invasive Species Specialist Group, part of the World Conservation Union, has developed the Global Invasive Species Database. Its website allows you to search for invasive plants, animals, and microorganisms by country, habitat, or taxonomic group. You can even see a listing of the world's hundred worst invasive species and learn what species are wreaking havoc in your state. Experts provide images and information on each species' biology, ecology, and native and alien ranges. Check out this easy-to-navigate site at


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