The Great Lakes are reportedly home to a vampire-like ray-finned fish that has disturbed population control due to the epidemic.
According to Fox News, the population of sea lampreys, an eel-like parasite fish that is native to the Northern Hemisphere but is considered invasive in the Great Lakes, momentarily surged during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Since then, authorities have been attempting to eliminate the lamprey overpopulation.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, lampreys don’t have scales, fins, or gill coverings like “bony” fish like trout, cod, and herring have. Their skeletons are comprised of cartilage, just like sharks. Behind their mouths and eyes, they have a characteristic row of seven pairs of tiny gill holes that they use to breathe.
The sea lamprey’s disc-shaped, suction-cup mouth, which it uses to grip on to hapless fish, is ringed with sharp, horny teeth. This anatomical feature makes the sea lamprey an effective killer of lake trout and other bony fish. The lamprey then rasps away the flesh of the fish with its rough tongue so it can consume its host’s blood and bodily fluids. Each year, one lamprey consumes around 40 pounds of fish.
Currently, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries and Oceans Canada work together to manage the control of sea lampreys in the lakes through the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. To stop the lamprey from moving upstream, field biologists install barriers and traps in the streams that feed the lakes. They also use special chemicals called lampricides, which are designed to kill lamprey larvae while being safe for other aquatic life.