Do you know Earth's ultimate invasive species? Take the quiz!


Survival of the fittest isn't always a tried and true concept, especially when invasive species are involved. See how many intrusive creatures you recognize in the Ultimate Invasive Species Quiz.

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Question 1 of 20

Malaria is a disease of concern for humans, but what about animals? Which of the following invasive species can cause avian malaria, a potentially fatal disease in birds?

Poxvirus avium, a virus
a virus from the genus Flavivirus
Plasmodium relictum, a protist

... The protist Plasmodium relictum, which is transmitted through mosquito bite, is responsible for the vast majority of avian malaria cases. This species can be a major problem for birds in isolated areas such as islands --Hawaii has witnessed the extinction of 10 bird species from this protist.


Question 2 of 20

This non-native species not only disrupts Florida's ecosystem, it's also been caught red-handed eating an alligator. Which species are we talking about?

the Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus)
the cane toad (Bufo marinus)
the feral pig (Sus scrofa)

... Though alligator isn't usually on the menu for Burmese pythons, one was photographed with an alligator in its ruptured stomach in 2005 -- both reptiles died from the ordeal. Originally thought to have been released as exotic pets, Burmese pythons are negatively affecting native Floridian wildlife.


Question 3 of 20

Which invasive species can grow up to a foot (around 0.3 meters) in length in one day?

Burmese python
purple star thistle

... Though snakes and thistles grow quickly, they can't match the foot-a-day progress of kudzu.


Question 4 of 20

Which non-native fish found a new home in the coastal waters of some eastern U.S. states?

clownfish (genus Amphiprion)
lionfish (Pterois volitans)
longhorn cowfish (Lactoria cornuta)

... All three fish are popular aquarium pets, but the lionfish somehow escaped -- most people speculate it was released by pet owners. Since the first sightings off the coast of Florida, this hungry species has moved northward, damaging marine ecosystems along the way.


Question 5 of 20

Caulerpa seaweed (Caulerpa taxifolia), also known as "killer algae," was NOT found en masse in which of the following marine areas?

Lake Erie, U.S.
Lake Victoria, Africa
the Mediterranean Sea

... This saltwater algae hasn't set foot in Lake Erie, but it's wreaked havoc on marine ecosystems in Lake Victoria and the Mediterranean Sea. After this ornamental species was released from an aquarium, it began to blanket anything in its path -- kind of like kudzu, but underwater.


Question 6 of 20

In ecology, the term "r-selected species" is defined as:

species that produce many offspring that mature quickly, but are less likely to survive into adulthood
species that produce few offspring that mature quickly, but have an increased chance of survival into adulthood
species that are rare

... Species that produce many offspring at once that have decreased chances for survival in adulthood are "r-selected" species. R-selected species introduced into a new environments can become invasive species if they don't have any natural predators there.


Question 7 of 20

Which invasive plant species has difficult-to-see bristles that can penetrate human skin?

the erect prickly pear (Opuntia stricta)
Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)
pumpwood (Cecropia peltata)

... Approach the erect prickly pear with caution -- grazing livestock certainly do!


Question 8 of 20

Which invasive invertebrate was purposely released to eat another invasive species in a process called biological control?

the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris)
the New Zealand flatworm (Arthurdendyus triangulatus)
the rosy wolfsnail (Euglandina rosea)

... Also known as the "cannibal snail," the rosy wolfsnail's purpose was to rid Hawaii of another invasive species, the African land snail. Too bad the wolfsnail began to eat native and endangered brethren, too.


Question 9 of 20

Which cute and cuddly animals inspired a 1,139 mile (1,834-kilometer) pest-exclusion fence in Australia?

the brown squirrel
the feral cat (Felis catus)
the European rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)

... Building a fence to limit the spread of European rabbits might sound crazy, but it was one of many ways the Australian government tried to handle these fluffy destructivists, which ate and destroyed grasslands for livestock and farming.


Question 10 of 20

Bat populations in the northeast U.S. are taking a hit from a harmful species researchers think may be invasive. The disease, called white-nose syndrome, is speculated to be caused by:

Geomyces destructans, a fungus
the Ebola virus (family Filoviridae)
the chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis)

... Researchers found a new species of fungus, Geomyces destructans, in the white fungal growth around the muzzles of infected bats. The disease is disastrous for these winged pollinators, which also keep insect pests in check.


Question 11 of 20

This species has shocked the Great Lakes ecosystems with its stalwart growth and ability to latch onto practically anything. Which bivalve are we describing?

the pea clam (Pisidium nitidum)
Wabash pigtoe mussel (Fusconaia flava)
the zebra mussel (Dreissena polymorpha)

... The real muscle behind clogging water intake pipes for Great Lake industries is its homonym -- the mussel. Small striped bivalves called zebra mussels have cost fisheries and companies millions of dollars by clogging pipes and weighing down marine equipment. The species also outcompetes native shellfish by eating algae and smothering them by latching onto them.


Question 12 of 20

According to the Convention on Biological Diversity, invasive alien species have contributed to approximately what percentage of all animal extinctions (for which the cause is known)?

10 percent
40 percent
70 percent

... These ecological newcomers, which are heavily facilitated by humans, are responsible for 40 percent of animal extinctions.


Question 13 of 20

Shakespeare insinuated the annoying features of this bird in his 16th century play "Henry IV." Apparently, that brief use of the bird didn't stop the American Acclimatization Society from introducing it to America in the late 1890s -- along with every bird mentioned in Shakespeare's works. Which Shakespearean bird is invasive in North America because of this release?

the European magpie (Pica pica)
the European starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
the Japanese quail (Coturnix coturnix japonica)

... Shakespeare's vexation with the European starling prompted its introduction to the U.S. Though their iridescent feathers may enchant some, large groups of European starlings are not only noisy and messy, they displace native bird species from their native living spaces.


Question 14 of 20

The invasive parasite species Myxobolus cerebralis causes which circular flurry in infected trout and salmon?

whirling disease
marine velvet
marine itch

... Whirling disease is an accurate tag for what this parasite causes. Transmitted to fish via worm parasites, this myxozoan causes a blackening of the fish's tail, a gapping jaw and a sporadic whirling behavior. Continually whirling makes the fish susceptible to predators or exhausted to the point of death.


Question 15 of 20

Which of the following is NOT an invasive species?

the American bison (Bison bison)
purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
West Nile virus (Flavivirus)

... We all know to limit standing water to stop mosquitoes from spreading the invasive West Nile virus, and the purple loosestrife is an invasive plant that's crowded out several native plants. But the American bison isn't invasive -- in fact, its numbers are in decline.


Question 16 of 20

What behavior gives the raspberry crazy ant (Paratrechina pubens), an invasive species, its namesake?

its adventurous disposition
its frantic responses to danger
Its name has nothing to do with its behavior.

... The crazy ant not only damages residential and business electric equipment, it runs about frantically when disturbed. This species of ant, which has received a lot attention in Texas, also decreases biodiversity by competing with native species.


Question 17 of 20

A species of chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) is responsible for the drastic population decline of which animal group?


... This type of chytrid fungus is known to attack the keratin in amphibians' skin, which is especially problematic since animals such as frogs use their skin to breathe.


Question 18 of 20

Which tree has escaped private and public gardens to invade natural environments in the U.S.?

the American buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
apple trees (Malus domestica)
the shoebutton ardisia tree (Ardisia elliptica)

... Native to south Asia, the shoebutton ardisia can be invasive when introduced to other forests. In the U.S., the species' high reproductive rate allows it to crowd out other native plants.


Question 19 of 20

True or false: The multicolored Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), a species of invasive ladybug, can bite.

True. This ladybug will always bite when touched by humans.
True. This ladybugs bites sometimes, but it's probably an exploratory nibble.
False. Their mouths are too small to bite.

... While the multicolored Asian lady beetle might indeed bite you to explore the strange new environment that is you, but what you feel as a bite might actually be from the spurs on its legs.


Question 20 of 20

Invasive species can spread by:

the wind
ballast water
Both are correct.

... Invasive species spread in the strangest ways. For instance, spores of the fungus that cause soybean rust can travel in the wind, while invasive pests such as zebra mussels are introduced via ballast water, or water that is taken from outside a boat for stability and released once the boat has reached its destination.


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