A Deathly Odor Scares Lampreys Away

Lampreys attached to a fish, image from NOAA's Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, via Flickr

Asian carp may be getting more media attention lately, but another Great Lakes invasive species is still out there doing damage to sport fish populations–the sea lamprey.  Introduced through commercial shipping in the 1800’s, the parasitic lampreys have been the subject of poison, electrocution, and spawning-habitat blockage.  In spite of these efforts, the population of lampreys in the Great Lakes is still large enough to have a detrimental effect on important native fish species like lake trout.

A new method of control was recently tested by a research group at Michigan State University, with very interesting results.  The researchers took dead lampreys and liquefied the bodies, then poured the mixture into tanks and watched for a reaction.  As you might guess, living lampreys aren’t keen on the smell of death:

Tank view from underwater:

Because of the consistent response from the lampreys, and the availability of material to produce the mixture, this could be utilized in the lamprey control program in the Great Lakes.  You can read the paper to learn more about the methods and results; learn more about the lamprey control programs already in place here.

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