Editor’s note: Great Lakes SmackDown Terrestrial Terror is an ongoing Great Lakes Echo series. Brackets can be filled out until Friday, March 18. Find more information here.
By Alice Rossignol and Rachael Gleason
The heavyweights and wildcards take to the ring in the final land brawls of round one of the Great Lakes SmackDown Terrestrial Terror.
FERAL SWINE vs. GIANT HOGWEED
Weighing up to 440 pounds, the feral swine is an aggressive, athletic and voracious competitor. Hogging up the mammal category, “The Beast,” damages crops and carries a plethora of diseases. Can another type of hog make it squeal? The Giant Hogweed, known on nature’s streets as “The Hulk,” carries its own weight. Measuring up to 20-feet high this giant out-competes native plants and causes skin irritation and even blindness in humans.
Alias: The Beast
Legal name: Sus scrofa
Home Turf: Europe and Asia
U.S. Fighting Debut: 1500s
Agent: In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue,
probably with domestic swine too.
They got away or were released, and now Great Lakes folks must deal with “the beast.”
(Other explorers probably brought some too.)
Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: Mostly in Michigan with populations in Ohio, Indiana, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Ever the athletes, these pigs are swift and multi-talented — They can run up to 30 miles per hour and are excellent swimmers.
Well-known as big bullies, these swine eat whatever plant or animals are in their path.
These bad boys and girls can give you diseases and parasites like: brucellosis, balantidiasis, leptospirosis, salmonellosis, toxoplasmosis, trichinosis, trichostrongylosis, sarcoptic mange, tuberculosis, tularemia, anthrax, rabies and the plague — Just to name a few.
Trampling is a feral swine strong suit. They’ve been known to damage crops, plant communities, vehicles, turf, soil and even archaeological sites.
Life Expectancy: 15 to 25 years.
Offspring: Females can start breeding at 6 months of age and can produce 4 litters a year of 4 to 12 piglets.
Alias: The Hulk
Legal name:Heracleum mantegazzianum
Home Turf: Caucasus Mountain region – between the Black and Caspian seas.
U.S. Fighting Debut: 1917
Agent: Introduced as an ornamental plant.
Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: Moist places in Ontario, Quebec, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois
Weight/Size class: 15 to 20 feet high with leaves up to 5 feet across and flowers up to 2.5 feet across.
This gigantic plant out-competes native plants.
During winter months, it dies back which can lead to erosion on stream banks where it prefers to grow.
It’s considered a public health concern because its sap can cause severe skin reaction in humans called, “photo-dermatitis” or “photo-sensitivity,” where skin blisters in the sunlight. Contact with the eyes can lead to temporary or permanent blindness.
This big guy is so obnoxious that is listed under the “Federal Noxious List.”
Life Expectancy: About two years.
Offspring: Large hogweed colonies can form from a single plant because seeds combined with shoots from its roots create lots of hogweed babies.
EUROPEAN VALVE SNAIL vs. JAPANESE AND CHINESE MYSTERY SNAILS
You thought this was all about terrestrial species didn’t you? Well, we’ve thrown some aquatic wildcards into the mix to keep these exotics on their game. Slow but aggressive the European Valve Snail, has a craving for algae and a knack for making lots of babies. Inside this “Spiral of Doom” you may also chance upon a nasty parasite or two. But can it face up to a tag team of the Japanese and Chinese mystery snails? Both are mass reproducers, clog filter screens and transmit diseases.
Alias: Spiral of Doom
Legal name: Valvata piscinalis
Home Turf: Europe, the Caucasus, western Siberia and Central Asia
U.S. Fighting Debut: Introduced to Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Genesee River in 1897 and spread to Lake Erie, St. Lawrence River, Hudson River and Champlain Lake.
Agent: Most likely in packing materials from Europe made of straw and marsh materials. Humans later spread snails by ship through canals.
Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: All the Great Lakes except for the St. Clair River and Lake Huron.
Weight/Size class: 7 mm in length
This guy might be little and slow, but he’s grows rapidly and has an aggressive appetite for algae and organic matter. The snail also reproduces often and quickly.
Using its keen chemosensory perception, it can detect and shield itself from nearby threats.
The snail can host evil parasites that spread to other species.
Life Expectancy: 13 to 21 months
Offspring: Lays 150 eggs two to three times a year
Alias: Oriental Tag Team (Japanese Mystery Snail | Chinese Mystery Snail)
Home Turf: Southeast Asia to Japan and eastern Russia | Japan, Taiwan, and Korea
U.S. Fighting Debut: From 1931 to 1942 in the Great Lakes via the Niagara River, which flows into Lake Ontario. | Lake Erie in the 1940s.
Agent: Likely released from an aquarium into the Niagara River | Deliberately released to the Great Lakes; intentionally stocked as food for the channel catfish
Preferred Great Lakes fighting arena: Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and New York. | Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, Wisconsin
Weight/Size class: Can reach 65 mm | Can reach 50 mm; up to 65 mm in Lake Erie
The Chinese mystery snail is more widespread, but the Japanese mystery snail is more of a nuisance. They might not stand a chance alone, but together, they are the ultimate water cloggers.
The Japanese mystery snails are a scourge to Lake Erie fisherman, who have caught up to two tons in one haul in the past.
The sludge-eaters often clog filter screens of water intake, another nuisance to fisherman.
The snails threaten native gastropods and serve as vectors for the transmission of parasites and disease. The Japanese snail is a host to Angiostrongylus cantonensis larvae in Taiwan, a species associated with eosinophilic meningitis.
Life Expectancy: Females: 5 years, Males: 3 years | Females: 8 years
Offspring: 70 to 100 in a lifetime | 10 to 120 young
So will The Hulk pull its own weight into the next round? Will the Oriental Tag Team be too much for the Spiral of Doom?
Fight for your contenders and make your arguments below.