Species which invaded Brazil and Caribbean could threaten British wildlife, says National Museum Wales

By Ben Miller | 25 June 2015

Museum calls on public to help identify exotic species washed up on plastic litter

A photo of a fossil-like grey rock with crags against a black background
© National Museum of Wales
Welsh museum experts are warning that species which threaten marine life are being carried to the coasts of Britain and Ireland on plastic litter.

Six types of bivalve, washed up from the south-east coast of the US, could out-compete natives such as scallops and the edible oyster for food and shelter.

A photo of a series of sea shells covered in light fragments
A luve Isognomon specimen under a rock in Hawaii© Brocken Inaglory / Wikimedia Commons
One of the hitch-hikers, the Isognomon bicolor known more informally as the two-coloured purse oyster, has previously invaded Brazil and the Caribbean from Florida.

“Last July the UK recorded a sea temperature of 20°C in Cornwall,” says Anna Holmes, of National Museums Wales, who believes an “unusually large” amount of plastic waste, recorded since the winter storms of 2013, could have damaging effects.

A photo of a circular brown marine shell against a bright blue background
A fossil of Isognomon maxillatus© Hectonichus / Wikimedia Commons
“If the temperature continues to rise, some of these and other tropical visitors could become established in British seas and threaten our native wildlife.”

The bivalve species require a sea temperature of between 22 and 26°C to reproduce.

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