Sea lampreys have evolved in a way that they are able to release pheromones from their liver. Researchers at Michigan State University believe that this new discovery unique to only the invasive species will allow them to have more control over the Great Lakes habitat.
(Credit: Courtesy of MSU)
Sea lampreys are native to New York and Vermont while silver lampreys are native to the Great Lakes. However, the sea lampreys have invaded the Great lakes and have been preying on the fish by attaching to the fish’s body and ripping off their skin.
The fish dies due to excessive bleeding because the secretions from the sea lamprey’s mouth prevent the blood from clotting. Therefore, this species has become a major pest in the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Fishery Commission has made many different efforts to control this issue such as electric currents or physical barriers.
These solutions only proved to be somewhat successful. So a new approach to controlling this species was necessary.
The study was able to reveal something unique to the sea lamprey behavior, which allows them to take a more direct action in ridding the Great Lakes of this species without doing harm.
The researchers observed how both sea lampreys and silver lampreys reacted to bile salts. They found that even though both species were able to recognize the presence of the salts, only the sea lampreys began searching for a mate.
They believe that the sea lampreys have evolved this ability to secrete these pheromones from the liver. The liver’s original function is to process fats, which is still done in both species except it is also used for mating by the sea lampreys.
This is a very interesting approach to controlling this invasive species because it is a way to remove them without doing any harm. Furthermore, it seems quite accurate when ensuring that the native silver lampreys are not being affected when trying to get rid of the sea lampreys.
Reference: Michigan State University (2013, October 7). Bile salts: Sea lampreys’ newest scent of seduction.