The Most Dangerous Animal on St. Martin

Mark YOKOYAMA
Par Mark YOKOYAMA décembre 20, 2013 11:58

The Most Dangerous Animal on St. Martin

The most dangerous animal on St. Martin isn’t a snake, a spider or a stinging insect. It’s tiny, and under different circumstances, it would be nothing more than a minor annoyance to most people. However, thanks to its unique relationship between people and viruses, it is justifiably feared.

The dengue fever mosquito can be identified by the lyre-shaped markings on its thorax. It is seen here biting the author.

The dengue fever mosquito can be identified by the lyre-shaped markings on its thorax. It is seen here biting the author.

The dengue fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is also known as the yellow-fever mosquito. Like many animals that are here today, it was introduced by man. Originally from Africa, we believe it arrived in the Caribbean with European explorers and colonists, perhaps on ships used in the Transatlantic slave trade. 

This mosquito is a vector for three viral diseases – yellow fever, dengue fever and chikungunya. Like the mosquito itself, all three viruses originated in other parts of the world and were spread to the Caribbean by humans. Yellow fever originates in Africa, while dengue and chikungunya are originally from Africa and Asia. Today, yellow fever is rare in most of the Caribbean, while dengue is found in most of the region. St. Martin is in the news recently as the first place in the New World where chikungunya has been contracted.

The recent outbreak of chikungunya brings to light a common occurrence on the island: the arrival of a new species that has an impact on the rest of the ecosystem. Often this goes unnoticed. How many people noticed when the Cuban flathead frog was seen on St. Martin for the first time last year? In other cases, it is perhaps a minor annoyance to people, like the East African land snail. Once, it helped collapse an industry, as the appetite of the pink bollworm did to the cotton industry in the 1920s. 

In this case, humans were responsible for bringing this mosquito and the virus. Not to mention all other introduced species on this island, for better or worse. It is usually for the worse. In fact, perhaps the dengue fever mosquito is only the second most dangerous animal on St. Martin.

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Mark YOKOYAMA
Par Mark YOKOYAMA décembre 20, 2013 11:58