Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Invasiveness is linked to greater commercial success in the global pet trade.

Abstract

The pet trade has become a multibillion-dollar global business, with tens of millions of animals traded annually. Pets are sometimes released by their owners or escape, and can become introduced outside of their native range, threatening biodiversity, agriculture, and health. So far, a comprehensive analysis of invasive species traded as pets is lacking. Here, using a unique dataset of 7,522 traded vertebrate species, we show that invasive species are strongly overrepresented in trade across mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish. However, it is unclear whether this occurs because, over time, pet species had more opportunities to become invasive, or because invasive species have a greater commercial success. To test this, we focused on the emergent pet trade in ants, which is too recent to be responsible for any invasions so far. Nevertheless, invasive ants were similarly overrepresented, demonstrating that the pet trade specifically favors invasive species. We show that ant species with the greatest commercial success tend to have larger spatial distributions and more generalist habitat requirements, both of which are also associated with invasiveness. Our findings call for an increased risk awareness regarding the international trade of wildlife species as pets.