The Sea Lamprey is one of the most commonly known invasive species in the Great Lakes region. Although the primitive, eel-like fish is known to be native to the northern Atlantic Ocean and the Baltic, eastern Mediterranean and Adriatic seas, it has been suggested it is also native to Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain and the Finger Lakes in New York State. It was first observed in Lake Ontario in 1935, 12 years after the Erie Canal opened from New York to Buffalo. Whether it is a native or not in Lake Ontario, it is an invasive species in the other Great Lakes, where it was first observed in the 1930s.
Sea Lamprey begin their lives as small, wormlike larvae, which feed on organic matter on stream bottoms for about 3 to 6 years before transforming into adults. The adults migrate into the Great Lakes to feed on fish for 12 to 20 months before swimming upstream to spawn and die.
A parasitic feeder, the Sea Lamprey latches onto large fish with its sucker mouth, sharp teeth and rasping tongue and sucks blood from the host.
Control methods include barriers and traps on streams, release of sterilized males and lampricides targeting the larval stage.
Sea Lampreys are found in the Great Lakes, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain and the Finger Lakes, with the larval stage living in tributaries of those water bodies.
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