House flies invade warmer Antarctica threatening native species

Posted Jun 19, 2017 by Kesavan Unnikrishnan
Scientists say that increasing number of houseflies that arrive in Antarctica on ships are surviving as the continent warms up. Their growing population can introduce deadly pathogens that could have a harmful effect on indigenous lifeforms.
Antarctica: The blue ice covering Lake Fryxell, in the Transantarctic Mountains, comes from glacial meltwater from the Canada Glacier and other smaller glaciers. The freshwater stays on top of the lake and freezes, sealing in briny water below.
Photo by Joe Mastroianni, National Science Foundation
As temperatures rise and glaciers retreat, particularly in the Antarctic Peninsula, its coastal areas are being colonized by invading mosses and insects like the common housefly, which are posing a conservation threat to the continent's distinctive ecosystems.
Dominic Hodgson of the British Antarctic Survey said that introduction of houseflies in Antarctica is a perfect example of how global warming and human interference is changing the continent's fragile ecosystem.
It comes in on ships, where it thrives in kitchens, and then at bases on the continent. It now has an increasing chance of surviving in the Antarctic as it warms up, and that is a worry. It is still very difficult to avoid contamination. Camera bags are a particular problem. People take them from one continent to the next and rarely clean them. They put them on the ground and larvae picked up elsewhere get shaken loose. It is a real issue.
Antarctic biodiversity is far more complex than widely assumed, with up to 15 distinct bio-geographic regions that have been evolutionarily isolated for many millions of years. Insects like the fly carry pathogens that can wipe out native vulnerable lifeforms.
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The sub-Antarctic islands have witnessed plenty of non native species getting introduced by humans. Pigs, dogs, cats, sheep, reindeer and rabbits have all been intentionally introduced in the past, with often devastating effects. Rats and mice were introduced to South Georgia and other islands accidentally by sealers and whalers and have decimated seabird populations.