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Killer shrimp could move into the Great Lakes

Killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus). Courtesy: Michal Grabowski

Killer shrimp (Dikerogammarus villosus). Courtesy: Michal Grabowski

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, February 11, 2015, 2:44 PM - A new study out of Montreal's McGill University suggests that killer shrimp -- an invasive predator known for killing other animals and not eating them -- could find its way into the Great Lakes.

More than 180 species have invaded the Great Lakes basin over the past 200 years, the university says.

Of that, 20 percent pose a threat to local ecosystems and economies.

No new invasive species have been recorded since 2006 thanks to tighter legislation in the shipping industry, but researchers feel there could be more to come.

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Killer shrimp, or Dikerogammarus villosus, is one of the species that has experts most concerned. Known for eating large amounts of fish eggs and disrupting native species, the shrimp could pose a threat to local fishing trades.

"In the most pessimistic scenario, greater numbers of non-native species are introduced, as ballast water regulations prove to be ineffective in the long term, and live trade continues to expand," The University of McGill writes in a statement.

"Live trade – the importation of live animals and plants for food markets or to be used as baitfish and aquarium pets – is largely unregulated. Consequently, in 50 years, the Great Lakes would be populated with many new invaders, most of which may come from inland waterways where Europe and Asia meet – the region around the Black Sea. This region is the source of some of the most disruptive invaders in the Great Lakes today."


Warming waters could also help facilitate the introduction of invasive species by allowing non-native animals to thrive.

“For example, the Great Lakes have already had all the invasive species from the Mississippi that could survive there, as a temperature barrier is protecting us from others,” says Katie Pagnucco, PhD student and lead author of the study.

"But warmer waters will facilitate the migration and establishment of southern species, most notably via the canal from the Mississippi to the Great Lakes. Invasion risks are dynamic and management responses must evolve to cope with them."

The study's authors are calling on governments to work together to establish new protocols that will minimize potential threats to the Great Lakes.

The complete paper can be found in the December edition of the Journal of Great Lakes Research.

Sources: Journal of Great Lakes Research | The University of McGill


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