We hear a lot about invasive species in the United States, but we also do our fair share of exporting species that damage ecosystems around the world.
Many of these made-in-the-U.S.A. animals start as seemingly innocuous pets. Others escape from farms. All of them out-compete native species and prosper in the lands they invade.
Red-eared sliders rose from humble beginnings on the muddy banks of the Mississippi River and surrounding waterways. The turtles achieved international fame as the most popular pet turtles worldwide. The United States exported fifty-two million turtles between 1989 and 1997 during the peak of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, according to the European Network on Invasive Alien Species (NOBANIS).
Now, red-eared sliders live on every continent except Antarctica. Sliders can grow to approximately 30 centimeters (1 foot) and live for four decades. Their large size and longevity wears out their welcome as pets, so they're often released. In the wild, the liberated sliders dominate many native turtles, including the endangered Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) and European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis).