post on sea lampreys. As you can tell simply by glancing at the picture above, these are some truly unsettling – if not down right nauseating – fish. Sometimes called “vampire fish”, they feed by attaching their multiple rings of sharp teeth to the body of any meaty animal and literally sucking the flesh and blood from its bones. Usually the victim is a fish and the sea lamprey simple stays attached until its prey dies. Then it moves on to the next victim.
The real problem with these ugly critters is that they belong in the ocean but will infest inland waterways and devastate the indigenous fish populations therein. This has been the case particularly in the Great Lakes regions of the U.S. and Canada where they migrated up the Welland Canal in the early 20th century. Here they have almost wiped out the lake trout population and thereby closed a number of fisheries on both sides of the border.
Though efforts to sterilize the lampreys, as seen on Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel, has had a modicum of success, new research may hold the key to running these monsters out of Lakes Erie, Huron and Michigan all together. And all it takes is the doubtless stomach churning scent of dead, decaying lampreys.
According to an article in USA Today’s print version, scientists at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission took a page from local fishermen’s books. The fishermen would slice up lampreys that were accidently caught in their nets and throw them back in the water. When they returned to their fishing site days later, they were not troubled by lampreys for weeks after the slaughter. A little testing proved that sea lampreys will literally flee from the smell of their dead relatives.
The researches are currently trying to isolate the specific chemical that causes this “alarm response” in the lampreys. Though the work is, as one scientist is quoted in the article as saying, “…[not] easy … especially if ventilation isn’t good…” it could lead to the return of edible fish like the lake trout. To quote Mike Siefkes, the researcher in question, again, “… hopefully, it’s the smell of success.”
If you happen to subscribe to usatoday.com, you can visit their site and see video of the repellant being tested. If you do, leave a comment and let us know how that looks. The picture at the header (via Wikipedia) is enough for me, thank you very much.
And on a final “fishy” note, a hearty thank you from me goes out to all who voted for “The Horror: A Tale of Dismemberment” at the 49 Writing Center’s site. My bloody yarn won their Ode to a Dead Salmon Bad Writing Contest. That’s what I get for using “spongiform encephalopathy” in a sentence.