It doesn’t matter how good your writing is if no one reads it, so one of the skills of journalism must be composing attention-catching headlines. Whoever realised they were in a position to use the phrase Most dangerous alien species in a story title today must have been sure they were on to a winner.
The words certainly caught my attention and I clicked through to an article in the Independent about Quagga mussels.
Not only did I read the story, but I clicked on the gallery of Alien attacks: The invasive species damaging the UK, past the grey squirrels, through the Japanese knotweed and the Giant hogweed, all the way to the end, where I found this innocuous-looking creature:Of course appearances are deceptive and the accompanying text tells us it is a killer shrimp:
These crustaceans were first spotted in the UK in 2010 and are too small (3mm to 30mm in size) to easily eradicate. They prey on native shrimp species and have been known to kill simply for fun.
How, I wonder, can anyone be sure of a crustacean’s motive? Sure, marine biologists and scientists can prove that the “aliens” have the means and the opportunity, and witnesses can no doubt be called to identify them as killers, but how can anyone know that they did what they did simply for fun. I suspect that if we could only understand what goes on in the tiny minds of these alien species, we might find a score of other reasons for their actions.
And supposing they really are killing for pleasure, just how many other leisure options do they have? (And how easy would they find it to integrate into the local community?) In which case, can we blame them for their violent and antisocial behaviour?
Some 15 years ago, when I wrote the scrap of doggerel below, I obviously thought shrimps had more of a social life.
I’m a shrimp
but I don’t mind;
in general, folk
are very kind:
they ask me out,
to all the local
The summer’s best:
it seems to me
that friends have found
even a shrimp
can, by far, be
the most popular guest
at any barbie.
It seems I was wrong, though, so perhaps what is needed is Eliot’s Gumbie Cat to take these foreign crustaceans in hand like she did the cockroaches:
She thinks that the cockroaches just need employment
To prevent them from idle and wanton destroyment.
So she’s formed, from that lot of disorderly louts,
A troop of well-disciplined helpful boy-scouts[.]