Not all deadly animals look fierce or menacing. In fact, some are difficult to notice at all. If you live in Southwest Florida or are planning on visiting the area in the near future, keep an eye out for the New Guinea flatworm. The worm is an invasive species that was first spotted in the Miami area in 2015. Since then, they have spread to Cape Coral, where someone discovered one in a flowerpot. Investigators believe that the flatworms reached Florida with produce or other plants that came from the South Pacific.
The New Guinea Flatworm is a dark-colored worm with an orange stripe down its back. A Florida environmental scientist, Christopher McVoy, said, “I first saw one in my driveway… I happened to do a little research and got in touch with a researcher in Paris at the Museum of Natural History and he said, ‘Wow, haven’t seen any that far north.’” Rats and mice can easily become infected from the worm, and they can spread the infection to humans. When humans catch the infection, it causes damage to the brain and spinal cord. Having any contact at all with one of these worms can be dangerous.
The worms can also be a threat to the ecosystem. They can kill many small animals, such as lizards and snails, and they can damage trees, shrubs, and other vegetation. If you live in Southwest Florida and see one of these worms, take pictures and contact the authorities. Researchers are trying to prevent the worms from spreading elsewhere in Florida and the United States.