'Rat Snake' vs 'Brown Snake'

Discussion in 'General Reptile Discussion' started by cris, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    Many people often bring up the subject of replacing the lethal species with ecologically comparable species like the American rat snakes. Is there a reason why this would be bad?
     
  2. TheRamiRocketMan

    TheRamiRocketMan Not so new Member

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    Not an expert, but I did talk to some ecologists for my research internship about ecosystem engineering. With any ecosystem modification there are unforeseen consequences, we don't know every interaction the brown snake has with its ecosystem and we can't guarantee that an alternative would fill all those niches. When there are only ~5 snake bite deaths a year in Aus it doesn't seem worth the risk.
     
  3. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    I guess the next question would be why do you (or whoever else) think the risk of a negative outcome is greater than a the risk of a positive outcome. The example is just random I don't know much about rat snakes, it is just something people ask me and I honestly think increasing biodiversity could have some merit.
     
  4. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    Hypothetically, if there was a non venomous snake which 100% exactly filled the niche of a venomous snake and you swapped one for the other, the only harm would be that you would have caused the extinction of that species of venomous snake.

    In reality, you will never find two species which fill exactly the same niche, and if you did, it would be extremely difficult to get the new one established because the existing one is already there, so you would have to actively exterminate it, which most people would find to be in complete contradiction to the concept of conservation.

    Also in reality, no two species, especially completely and utterly unrelated species from entirely different families, have the same niche. It will have at least slightly different climate, habitat, diet, etc requirements and preferences, and it would also have a different ability to evade its own predators. You would almost certainly end up with either a failure to get the new species established or an invasive species which would cause some degree of problems.

    If your goal was simply to exterminate a deadly species you'd be better off simply exterminating the species rather than replacing it with something else.

    'Increasing biodiversity' by adding new species almost never ends up increasing biodiversity. The new species didn't evolve in the place assuming it does manage to establish itself, that's because it has a greater ability to live there than the previous species, which means it's probably going to outcompete and/or overpredate local species.

    Rat snakes are more advanced snakes than Australia's snakes, which are fairly primitive. They'd probably be more efficient at both hunting and evading predators. Australia is quite unique in having only a few colubrids, with literally most of Australia having none at all. In the rest of the world colubrids are the dominant snakes.

    Take a lesson from cane toads, rabbits, foxes, cats, carp, sparrows, Indian mynahs, etc etc etc.
     
  5. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    I think you would probably know I'm aware of these basic talking points. They are fairly obvious and sometimes correct. I used to think that native = good and introduced = bad. However that is obviously an overly simplified way of looking at things and it doesn't stack up with the complexity of reality.
     
  6. TheRamiRocketMan

    TheRamiRocketMan Not so new Member

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    This is a poor argument. Just because some introduced species help civilization doesn't mean they're good for the ecosystem, and similarly the fact that some native animals are detrimental to civilization doesn't justify introduced species.

    Anytime we attempt to ecosystem engineer we risk screwing it up and causing more harm than good. Australia's ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to this because our continent has been isolated for so long and our flora and fauna are not equipped to compete. Our limited experience with ecosystem engineering tells us that introduced species either die out instantly or go on an ecological rampage. Even if you don't care about Australia's ecosystems they are important for moderating all faunal populations which helps keep pests out of farms, boosts our tourism industry and contributes to our country's natural beauty.

    In this case I'd argue the benefits to removing all venomous species from Australia are so minuscule that it is absolutely not worth the risk.
     
  7. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    I was not arguing for the extinction of venomous species. However there are many situations where a harmless snake could fill niche where (laws aside) people would not want an extremely dangerous snake. Urban ecosystems are far removed from the utopian and imaginary pre-human ecosystems. Think for example in a school or densely populated area, you obviously don't want brown snakes. However other species may help to create a more stable ecosystem.

    Currently many people use cats or poison for this sort of thing. Neither of those things are going away soon.
     
  8. Kyle Hamilton

    Kyle Hamilton Not so new Member

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    Never heard of the idea ,could replace humans with chimps too ,good for banana growers.
     
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  9. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    When you don't do it you risk making it worse too.
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Jun 16, 2019, Original Post Date: Jun 16, 2019 ---
    Oh dear... you cannot talk about replacing people on the internet these days.
     
  10. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    You think they can be introduced into the suburbs and just be asked nicely to stay in that area and not spread?

    I guess it worked for Cane Toads. What could go wrong? Silly me, forget I said anything. What would I know? I'm just a qualified ecologist.

    Let's let some more fish, birds and mammals go too. Screw the natives, those early settlers had the right idea releasing rabbits, foxes, sparrows and stuff.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
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  11. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    I think it would have been a good idea to seriously consider some sort of carefully evaluated snake as bio-control for cane toads. Your strawman and basic high school level arguments are not really working for me.
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
  12. TheRamiRocketMan

    TheRamiRocketMan Not so new Member

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    We introduced cane toads to attempt to control sugar cane beetle populations, how well did that go exactly? Introducing foreign species practically never has the desired outcome.

    In any case there is already a native snake that eats cane toads, the freshwater Keelback can eat small toads and are tolerant to the toxins yet despite this they haven't exactly slowed the toad population expansion.

    Also calling an argument high-school level isn't a rebuttal. Either change your mind or offer a direct counter, by trying to deflect criticism your opinion appears less informed not more. If you really want a discussion to take place you need to present a cohesive counter argument.

    You opened your post asking if there would be anything bad with replacing a native snake species with a foreign one. Two people, one being an ecologist, said yes, because of x y z, and yet you continue push this bandwagon without actually offering any rebuttal. If you decide to reply try to actually address the ecological uncertainty with purposely introducing a foreign species.
     
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  13. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    The failure to deal with cane toads is one rebuttal. Another rebuttal is the complete failure of dealing with changing urban ecosystems. Another would be the failure to deal with agricultural ecosystems. Another would be the proof that biocontrol works extremely well if carefully implemented.
     
  14. TheRamiRocketMan

    TheRamiRocketMan Not so new Member

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    The cane toad example I made was attempting to illustrate how the introduction of more snakes won't necessarily fix the cane toad issue.

    The urban ecosystem has definitely screwed up typical food balances, and for all intents and purposes those ecosystems no longer exist, replaced by a biological system surrounding the consumption of human waste and the occupation of human structures. This still doesn't justify additional modification by introducing species in my opinion, because urban ecosystems are permeable to the natural ecosystems, and the introduction of foreign creatures into urban environments inevitably leads to them leaking into the surrounding environments (ie: foxes). Any modification made to an urban ecosystem is also a modification to the natural ecosystem whether we like it or not.

    Similarly, agricultural systems are necessarily a-typical environments (though not to the same extent as urban ecosystems). These systems currently work without the introduction of more foreign species, however I am aware that exploiting the existing Australian land isn't without its challenges. If you can name a major issue currently straining Australian farmers that would be mitigated by the introduction of a foreign species I would be interested to hear and possibly willing to shift my position on that front.

    After doing a bit of research I will grant you that bio-control does work more often than I implied before, however I will not retract my statement that biocontrol is a risk. As stated previously, we don't fully understand every organism's ecological role within its environment and this potentially leads to unforseen drawbacks. This 'risk' must be weighed against the benefits to determine the viability of a plan. What's more is that once a biocontrol measure it implemented, it is very difficult if not impossible to reverse which is why extreme caution must be taken.

    In the case of the original example with venomous snakes, I think the issue is so minuscule that the biocontrol risk is absolutely not worth it. Between 2000 and 2010, 14 people were killed by venomous snakes in Australia, vs 16 from bees, 27 from dogs and 33 from cows. In a country where cows kill twice as many people as snakes do I don't think snakes are worth bio-control measures. Here we have excellent access to free medical care and antivenin, chances are if you are bitten by a snake in Australia you're going to live. As a bonus we get to share our country with some fascinating and uniquely equipped reptiles.
     
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  15. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    These are not valid rebuttals.

    'Failure to deal with cane toads' simply means there isn't anything we can do to fix the problem. If you actually have a valid cure for the problem, sure, that might count, but you don't. Many millions of dollars have been spent on this issue, nothing has helped. The guy who is probably Australia's top herpetologists has spent most of his career on this issue, he's a very good ecologist, and I have to say, I agree with him, not you. There is no animal you could bring in to eat cane toads which would appreciably reduce their numbers, and anything which could reduce their numbers even slightly would much prefer to eat native frogs and would be cataclysmic to native frogs and frog eating snakes. Fortunately these days ecologists have some idea about what they're doing.

    'A complete failure of dealing with changing urban ecosystems' isn't even a genuine statement which describes the situation, let alone a rebuttal.

    Same with your next statement.

    Biological control can work, sometimes. Generally it doesn't. About the only examples in Australia are the introduction of something which is very specific in what it targets. An example is the moth which dealt with the prickly pear cactus issue - the problem was that we had an invasive cactus which should never have been brought in, the solution was a moth which specifically targets that cactus while no natives did the job. Another example is dung beetles. Introduced domesticated animals such as cows produce faeces unlike that of native Australian animals and we didn't have native beetles able to deal with it. These beetles feed on manure which otherwise wouldn't be in Australia, so they aren't outcompeting native species or using up other resources.

    What you are proposing is to label a native Australian species a problem, and introduce something which can outcompete and replace it! If successful, it will not only do so in the suburbs, it will do so in wilderness and become a massive invasive problem. If it is able to outcompete, say, eastern brown snakes, it can presumably outcompete other Pseudonaja species (which are found all over literally all of mainland Australia) and no doubt at least to some extent outcompete other genera too.

    Additionally, since this introduced species, specifically selected to be invasive and exterminate a native species (!!!!!) must be a more efficient and advanced species in order to replace the target species (eg eastern brown snake), it will likely be able to exterminate or dramatically reduce some of its prey species too. Potentially there are further issues, for example, while it may be a good predator of introduced house mice, it may happen to also find some species of native bird, lizard, frog etc particularly appealing, and may exterminate one or more of those species too, while doing no better or even a worse job of controlling mice than brown snakes did.

    The most obvious flaw in your argument (though not even the biggest potential problem!) is that if this introduced rat snake is good enough to outcompete and replace brown snakes in the area it is introduced in, it's going to continue to spread out and replace brown snakes in the wilderness too.

    The biggest potential issue is that it could outcompete multiple species of native snakes and exterminate or decimate multiple native species it finds palatable.

    Snakes are very rarely prey specific, and this most certainly applies to rat snakes of any group. This is one of the most important aspects of biological control - it must affect only the target species. In this case you are not even directly attempting to target a species (an hypothetical example of this would be a snake which *only* eats cane toads and won't touch native frogs - such a species does not exist, but if it did, it would be a fantastic opportunity for biological control), you are attempting to outcompete one! The degree to which this violates the basics of ensuring biological control does not go wrong is so huge it is difficult to put into words.

    This idea is so far beyond terrible it's difficult to put words to it.

    In short, this is a bad, terrible, hideous, irresponsible idea. It is extremely obvious how bad an idea it is.
     
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  16. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    Cactii* or catucessess.
    --- Automatic Post Merged, Jun 17, 2019, Original Post Date: Jun 17, 2019 ---
    The idea is it would replace brown snakes and other highly dangerous snakes in areas where they are practically removed already or not wanted, you could use unfit or low fitness animals.
     
  17. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    *sigh*

    The correct plural is cacti. Not cactii.

    I didn't attempt to use the plural form.

    If you're going to correct someone's spelling, first make sure they made an error, and use the correct spelling yourself.

    Why would you want to replace something in an area where they are practically no longer there???

    Yes, I think everyone understood that you want to replace them only in specific areas. Just like they only wanted cane toads in the cane fields rather than in wetlands, forests, virtually every habitat type in the northern third or so of the continent. It seems you still need to learn the concept that animals don't just stay where we want them to be, they'll spread out and go everywhere they're able to go if they are capable of doing so.

    How on Earth do you propose 'unfit' or low fitness animals could outcompete perfectly healthy, fit animals?

    Are you just trolling?
     
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  18. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    lol yeah I'm terrible at spelling, cactuecessess is not even a real word... However prickly pear cacti are not a real problem, as far as I have been able to find. With the introduction of suitable biocontrol they are a net benefit as far as I know.
     
  19. Sdaji

    Sdaji Almost Legendary

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    You know Australia has native non venomous snakes, right? You know snakes aren't the only animals which eat vermin such as rodents, right? You know that any non native snake which is so invasive it can colonise areas native snakes can not would be an incredible danger to Australian ecosystems, right? You know that the idea of introducing an exotic snake species with the deliberate intention of establishing an invasive population is the exact opposite of what biosecurity attempts to do, right? You know I could go on like this all day if I wanted, right?

    And yes, your spelling isn't that great, so it's probably worth not trying to correct someone else's when they haven't made an error. Much like you shouldn't persist with hideous ideal like this. I mean, it's fine to spit ball stupid ideas, but to defend them with null arguments, accusing someone explaining the reality of the situation of using a high school level argument while yourself resorting to picking out spelling errors with such desperation that you just imagine an error when it wasn't there is crazy. If you want to spitball or brainstorm ideas freely, you need to have at least some level of ability to think rationally and look at the situation with at least a little bit of sanity.
     
  20. cris

    cris Almost Legendary

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    I was not intending to correct spelling, rather it was to change to the plural. Prickly pear cacti are just one of many examples where introduced species have been a success. Most of of the species are not a problem. The species introduced for biocontrol also worked very well. Introducing new species is not automatically bad, I'm well aware that it goes bad often, but that is not a rule.

    The general idea I'm talking about, is the introduction of species to fill a niche that cannot be filled by a native species. I'm also not saying that it should be done or proposing an exact species or method.

    A more specific example could be urban areas in SE Qld. Many areas do not have predators to effectively control a number of pests, for eg. house geckos, cane toads and rodents. Even if someone didn't care about the death and permanent health issues associated with boosting brown snake numbers, the still wouldn't be able to control cane toads.

    While I don't have a full degree in ecology, I have studied ecology to a reasonable level including conservation biology. This included study of the benefits of invasive species. So it is not just me who understands that these things are not a simple one way argument.
     

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