Something From The X-Files

They're calling the Asian snakehead "the Frankenfish"

Researchers are long past any hope of eliminating the swamp eels. They spent six months electrofishing in one of the canals near the Everglades, and removed 1400 eels. "It probably didn't really put much of a dent in the population, to tell you the truth," Nico says. Still they plan to try again, to test electrofishing as a means of controlling the eel population.

There's still no telling what the impact of the eels will be. They gobble up almost any fish, frog, worm, or crayfish small enough to fit in their mouths, with a fondness for tadpoles. But they can go for weeks without food. All are born female, with some transforming into males. They reproduce year-round. And they're spreading.

At the very least, the eels, the snakeheads, and all the other invader species are occupying an environmental niche that might have been occupied by a native species, using up limited resources. At the worst, they could force some native species into extinction, disrupt the food chain, and trigger a catastrophe. No matter what, it all adds up.

The channa argus, or northern snakehead: Note the ripping longer teeth, and the grinding smaller ones; in addition, it has an air sac that lets it wriggle across the land
The channa argus, or northern snakehead: Note the ripping longer teeth, and the grinding smaller ones; in addition, it has an air sac that lets it wriggle across the land

"The real misconception that a lot of people have," says Jim Williams, head of the biodiversity branch at the Florida Caribbean Science Center in Gainesville, "is that it's like adding two chemicals together and getting an explosion. Only in this case, you add fish to water and it may be five years, ten years, maybe fifty years before you get the explosion. So basically, you're dealing with a biological time bomb. And it's sitting there ticking.

"This just represents one more nail in the casket, if you will," he says. "Is it a small finishing nail, or a large tenpenny nail, or a railroad spike? I don't know."

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