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One Way to Keep Invasive Asian Carp at Bay: Carbonate the Great Lakes

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Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Threats to our environment can take many forms. They may look like drought, wildfires, or killer algae. They may also look like carp. Since the 1970s, Asian carp have been steadily spreading through American waterways and are currently speeding toward the Great Lakes. But scientists are hoping to stop them before they get there. The newest proposal? Carbonate the water. A new study found that Asian carp will swim away from water infused with carbon dioxide. The findings were published in the Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Image credit: Kenpei via Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

Asian carp and other invasive species may not look scary, but that doesn’t stop them from destroying ecosystems. These resilient organisms are bullies, pushing their way into habitats, seizing all the resources for themselves, multiplying fast, and starving out the locals. (On top of that, huge individual Asian carp have been known to leap from the water and hit boaters right in the face, causing injuries and fish stories nobody will believe.)

Many different carp-control approaches have already been put forward. Local officials and researchers have proposed—and, in some cases, tried—electrifying the water, adding poison, building aquatic fences, and even genetically engineering the fish. But to date, the carp have survived and eluded every attempt to thwart them.

The idea of carbonating the water is not a new one; previous laboratory studies suggested that carbon dioxide could be an effective carp deterrent. But nobody had tested the hypothesis in open water until now. Scientists from the University of Illinois and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stocked a secure research pond with invasive bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and silver carp (H. molitrix), as well as four native species. They then added plumes of recycled carbon dioxide to the pond water, a little bit at a time, and watched to see how the fish would behave.

Sure enough, both carp species avoided CO2-treated areas of the pond, even crowding into smaller areas just to stay out of the carbonated water. They also changed their swimming patterns and slowed their movements.

The problem is that the carbonated water also drove out three out of the four local fish species. They huddled in the non-carbonated parts of the pond right along with the carp invaders.

So no, let’s not rush to carbonate the Great Lakes just yet.

“Further tests are needed before CO2 can be used in Asian carp management,” USGS scientist and co-author Jon Amberg said in a press statement. “Understanding the effects of long-term, elevated CO2 exposure on fish and other organisms can help assess its risks to native species.”

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8 Bizarre Creatures That Have Washed Ashore
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With an estimated 95 percent of the world’s oceans yet to be explored, science may never have a complete catalog of the various life forms that navigate their depths. Sometimes, these odd creatures come to us instead. Inclement weather, outside forces, or just plain bad luck have led to some strange sea dwellers washing ashore to confuse—and sometimes terrify—onlookers until they can be identified.

Most recently the fangtooth snake eel, or Aplatophis chauliodus, appeared in Texas to cause a stir following Hurricane Harvey. Here are a few more examples of puzzling creatures that have recently landed in the sand.

1. THE MONTAUK MONSTER // 2008

A screen shot of the Montauk Monster
Nat Geo Wild, YouTube

In July 2008, a photo of what looked like the demon that possessed Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters made the internet rounds. “The Montauk Monster,” so named because it was discovered on a beach in Montauk, New York, was a curious-looking carcass that was not immediately identifiable. The animal wasn’t available for autopsy—it was carted away by person or persons unknown—but zoologists asked by media to examine the photo were fairly certain it was a decomposing raccoon that had lost enough hair and skin to reduce its charms considerably. Later, a trio of men from nearby Shelter Island admitted to finding a dead raccoon and giving it a "Viking funeral" by setting it ablaze on the water. Whether that’s true or not, the “monster” was almost certainly the same as the one partial to rooting through your trash.

2. THE INDONESIAN KRAKEN // 2017

Death and decomposition can radically alter the appearance of a species that might otherwise be easily identifiable. Such was the case with the 49-foot-long creature that popped up above the water at Seram Island in Indonesia in May 2017.  The spongy, floating mass was initially mistaken for a giant squid before ocean conservationists pointed out a visible skull, jaw, and spine in some photos, making it far more likely that it was a baleen whale. Although they usually sink to the bottom after expiring, this one might have had bacterial gases keeping it afloat.

3. THE DEMON DOLPHIN OF SAKHALIN // 2015

The corpse that washed up on Sakhalin Island
Mystery Universe, YouTube

Ravaged either by the sea or by some kind of enemy—or both—the rotting corpse of a mystery creature washed up on Sakhalin, an island in Russia, in 2015. Its elongated beak led to early suspicions it was a dolphin, but observers were quick to point out that dolphins don’t have fur. That could’ve been some kind of skin deterioration, but eyewitnesses also claimed to have seen what looked like paws on the specimen. The best bet was that it was a bottlenose whale calf. Before a definitive conclusion was reached, the body washed back out to sea.

4. THE MADBALL OF CAPE TOWN // 2014

The off-putting fish that was found in Cape Town, South Africa
Chaoonnews, YouTube

Looking much like a Cenobite keychain, this fierce little creature was allegedly plucked from the sands of a Cape Town, South Africa resort area by a tourist. Appearing to have a body comprised mostly of a mouth, the fanged horror was photographed and sent along to the University of Cape Town’s biological sciences department. Their best guess? It’s Chorisochismus dentex, or a klipsuier, a nibbler that feeds on mussels. The corpse had dried out, disfiguring its already troubling features.

5. THE NEW ZEALAND SEA MONSTER // 2013

A creature that was a subject of controversy in New Zealand
Djinteressantevideos, YouTube

Roughly 30 feet long, with pointed teeth and a gaping maw, this creature found on New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty looked quite a bit like the logo from Jurassic Park. It was so battered that speculation ran from an alligator to a moray eel. Marine biologist Anton van Helden went on record saying it was likely a killer whale due to its distinctive tail: Orcas can be found in New Zealand.

6. A GIANT EYEBALL // 2012

Very little news that emerges out of Florida could be considered boring. And when things wash ashore there, it’s almost certainly going to capture national attention. In 2012, a perfectly-intact, softball-sized eyeball was found on Pompano Beach, just about 10 miles north of Fort Lauderdale. The eerie, disembodied ocular discovery was forwarded to fish and wildlife researchers, who declared it once belonged to a swordfish. It can be rare to find individual body parts ashore—so why an eye? Because it was appeared to be removed with a knife, experts believe a fisherman cut it out and tossed it in the water.

7. THE MARINE MONSTER // 2012

A South Carolina sturgeon that confused observers
nibiruexists, YouTube

Folly Beach in South Carolina was the site of an alarming discovery in 2012, when a bony-plated fish exceeding 10 feet in length was spotted on shore. The South Carolina Aquarium put speculation to rest by declaring it a sturgeon, a large bony fish with relatives dating back 350 million years—and which has been known to grow to be 500 pounds or more. Their eggs are often used for caviar, though presumably no one raided this one for a gourmet snack.

8. THE ROCH NESS MONSTER // 2015

A fanged sea creature found in England
InformOverload, YouTube

Hollingworth Lake near Littleborough, England sounds like the perfect setting for wonderful childhood memories of boating, fishing, and making lifetime bonds. Unfortunately, it was also briefly a contributor of nightmares, when a 5-foot-long, fanged creature washed up there in 2015. Likely a pike, residents said they had no idea anything so large lived in the water. One called it “something prehistoric.”

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Lonely Guests at This Belgian Hotel Can Rent a Goldfish for the Night
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International travel can be lonely, which is why one Belgian airport hotel provides guests with an optional companion: a pet goldfish, rented on a nightly basis for around $4 U.S., according to The Independent.

Located near the Brussels South Charleroi Airport, the Hotel Charleroi Airport in Gosselies has offered fish rentals for several years now. “The idea was to surprise our guests, as we always try to do,” hotel manager David Dillen told The Independent. “It’s brilliant to see how people react to it. They smile, they take pictures to put on social media. We rent a few fish per week.”

Word of the unconventional service spread after New Zealand radio producer Michelle Cooke tweeted a picture of one of the inn’s scaly sidekicks swimming in a glass bowl. “My friend is staying in a hotel in Belgium,” Cooke wrote in her post. “They've offered her the option of renting a fish for the night, in case she's lonely.”

The tweet went viral, with some social media users arguing that the service is unethical towards animals, or that the hotel’s fishbowls are too tiny. Dillen addressed these criticisms, saying the goldfish are healthy and well cared for, with a “big fish tank in the housekeeping department, with a shelter, oxygen, and plants,” as he told The Independent. “When we think it’s necessary, we put them there for a few days.”

That said, if you don't have a good track record with fish, we recommend sticking with regular hotel amenities like free breakfasts and fully stocked minibars.

[h/t The Independent]

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