Scientists have found an invasive species of alpine newt in three counties in Ireland. The amphibian has been found in five different locations in Co Offaly, Co Tipperary and Co Down. The alpine newt has the potential to have a detrimental impact on local biodiversity by acting as competition to native species, and by transmitting a disease called chytrid to native amphibian species such as the Common Frog, Smooth Newt and Natterjack toad. Chytrid has driven many species of species to extinction in the tropics.
Zoologist Éinne Ó Cathasaigh, who works with the Herpetological Society of Ireland (HSI), said the alpine newt was most likely introduced here through the pet trade by someone who wanted to add colour to their garden pond. With gold irises and black pupils, it is one of the most striking species among European newts. They are very similar to our smooth newts but the defining difference is that they don’t have a spotted belly like our native species. Instead they have an unmarked orange stomach. They are really beautiful but they are also dangerous — and that’s the issue,” he said. On the HSI’s discovery, he added: “We found them in a disused swimming pool. There were hundreds of them. In Offaly, we’ve already recorded around 30 this year. They are highly resilient to environmental conditions here and they reproduce very, very quickly.” [Niamh Horan, independent.ie]
This is not good news for our native amphibians and the HSI is asking people to report any new sightings of alpine newts to the organisation at https://thehsi.org/contact-us/. Alpine newts are likely to be found in still or slow-moving water that is clear and full of vegetation.
‘BE PET WISE’
The pet and aquaria trades are sources of new species which have the potential to become invasive in Ireland. Although the vast majority of pet owners are responsible and well informed, the growing availability of exotic pets means that more and more people have pets that could become invasive if they escape or are released into the natural environment. If they get into the wild, these exotic pet species may (1) predate on native wildlife, (2) compete with native plants and animals for resources, and (3) introduce and spread diseases.
Invasive Species Ireland asks people to ‘Be Pet Wise’ to the threat of invasive pets – never release them into the wild and keep them in such a way that they can’t escape. [www.invasivespeciesireland.com]