A new study predicts a new threat to India. Surprisingly, we do not even see weapons of mass as a threat here. Recent discoveries warn us that one potential threat is ‘hunting snails or Purcell’s caterpillar slugs’, which can become invaders. Due to international trade via Mumbai, the snail (Laevicaulis haroldi, first described in 1980) unexpectedly came to India between 2010 and 2012.
It is classified as a critically endangered species and is believed to feed on the leaves and bark of mulberry trees. There is very little known about this species, but it has been seen on neem trees, carrots, and papaya. There are currently 60 such records of spotting nationwide.
The distribution of this species has been studied using the Biodiversity Portal, iNaturalist, and other related research from the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE). In addition, they also studied future climate change scenarios. Understand and explain where the caterpillar attacks are prone to occur.
Both climate scenarios assume most of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana (south), Karnataka, northeastern Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, western Maharashtra, coastal Odisha, western Bengal, and some states in the northeast have been predicted to attract the slug.
The report shows that this invasive species has cost the global economy nearly 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars (since 1970), an average annual loss of 26.8 trillion U.S. dollars. Several studies have also shown that invasive species are responsible for the extinction of native and local species. According to Dr. Aravind, predator and prey evolved together in the same area, and when a new species is born, no one can eat/control it. He also added that due to the lack of large predators in the newly planted areas, these types of species thrived.
The report states that early detection and control are the keys to managing newly introduced species before they become invasive. We need to disseminate information and train foresters, farmers, gardeners, and horticulturists to identify, manage and monitor this newly discovered threat. The document states that strict isolation measures should be implemented at the port to prevent further infiltration.