Sharpshooter threatens Tahiti by inedibility | Science News

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Sharpshooter threatens Tahiti by inedibility

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12:22pm, April 4, 2006

In a new twist on invasive-species biology, a North American insect is menacing Tahitian ecosystems by getting itself killed and proving surprisingly toxic to its predators.

The invader is a half-inch–long leafhopper called the glassy-winged sharpshooter (Homalodisca coagulata). It's native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico, but it reached California in the 1980s. It's a strong flyer and has proved an unusually fast spreader of pathogens such as those for phony peach disease or for Pierce's disease, which can kill a grapevine in 2 years.

Now, the sharpshooter has reached French Polynesian islands including Tahiti and Mo'orea, where it's bringing trouble to paradise, warn two University of California (UC) researchers. Kenwyn Blake Suttle of UC-Berkeley and Mark Hoddle of UC-Riverside say that it's too early to tell whether sharpshooters will bring plant epidemics to the South Pacific.

Sharpshooters are already a local nuisance, th

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