Invasive Worm Threatens French Cuisine

It could wipe out all the snails in Europe, warns new report

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 8, 2014 2:33 PM CST

(Newser) – Devotees of French cuisine love their snails. Unfortunately, a slimy and highly invasive flatworm newly discovered in France finds them quite tasty, too, reports AFP. How invasive? "All snails in Europe could be wiped out," says Jean-Lou Justine of the National Museum of History in France. In other words, goodbye, escargot. The culprit is the New Guinea flatworm, known formally as platydemus manokwari, which has the distinction of being on the list of the world's 100 most invasive species. As Quartz notes, the 2-inch worm managed to hitch a ride into Hawaii from its native New Guinea and wiped out 90% of the state's 750 species of land snails.

Now a new report in the journal PeerJ warns that all of Europe could be next, unless authorities somehow stop the spread early. The researchers suggest aggressive quarantines wherever the worm is spotted; it first showed up at a botanical gardens in Normandy. "It may seem ironic, but it’s worth pointing out the effect that this will have on French cooking," says lead author Justine. "If the worms do manage to gain a foothold," adds a blogger at Mother Nature Network, "they could radically transform ecosystems and menus in Europe forever. " (The worms don't do so well in cold temperatures, so maybe Europe needs a pest-destroying blast of our polar vortex?)

Escargot: An endangered dish?
Escargot: An endangered dish?   (Shutterstock)
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