Caterpillar Slug: A new invasive species is on its way to attack India; here’s how to save yourself

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July 17, 2021 3:06 PM

This invasive species has cost nearly $1.3 trillion dollars to the global economy (since 1970) and an average of $26.8 billion per year, suggest reports.

Caterpillar Slug, Caterpillar Slug news, Caterpillar Slug mothThe slug entered India around 2010-2012 accidentally through international trade via Mumbai (Photo: IE)

The new study has predicted a fresh threat for India. And surprisingly, we are not even talking about a mass weapon as a threat here. The potential threat recent findings have warned us against is–Purcell’s hunter slug or caterpillar slug which could become an invasive species attacking western and Peninsula India, the study added. The slug (Laevicaulis haroldi– first described in 1980) entered India around 2010-2012 accidentally through international trade via Mumbai. It has been listed as an endangered species and reportedly feeds on leaves and barks of mulberry plants. Not much we know as of now about this species but it has been spotted on neem trees, calotropis and papaya plants. There are now 60 records of this species from all over the country.

The distribution of this species has been studied with the help of the Biodiversity Portal, iNaturalist website, and other relevant past studies by Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). Additionally, they have also studied future climate change scenarios to understand and explain the places which could be vulnerable to the slug attack. “We have used two scenarios RCP 2.6 and RCP 8.5 (on the scale of best and worst case scenario) from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” Aravind N.A, Corresponding author and Associate Professor at ATREE was quoted as saying in the Indian Express report. “2.6 here is the best-case scenario where emissions and anthropogenic could be limited upto a certain extent. Whereas 8.5 stands for the worst case scenario. We have a high-risk future in terms of temperature and other climatic changes,” added Aravind N.A.

Under both the climatic scenarios, most parts of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana (southern part), Karnataka, northeast Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, western Maharashtra, coastal Odisha, West Bengal, and also, some states in North East India are suspected to attract the slug.

About the economic loss

This invasive species has cost nearly $1.3 trillion dollars to the global economy (since 1970) and an average of $26.8 billion per year, suggest reports. Several studies have also pointed out that invasive species are responsible for the extinction of native and endemic species on the planet. According to Dr Aravind, predators and prey evolve together in a locality and when a new species takes birth, there is no one to consume/eat it or keep a check on it. He also added that this kind of species thrives as they don’t have major predators in the newly grown region.

Early detection is the key

The early detection and control are key for managing newly introduced species before they become invasive, the report suggested. We need to spread a word and awareness among the forest managers, agriculturists, horticulturists and farmers to detect, manage and control this newly found species. A strict quarantine in the ports should also come into play to avoid further introductions, concluded the paper.

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