The dream of a fisherman and the horror of an ecologist: the snakehead terminator fish captures the waters of the United States
Human intervention in the affairs of nature is extremely rarely successful. Especially a lot of trouble was brought to the ecosystems of the planet by the settlement of animal and plant species, which people did at their discretion. The catastrophic invasion of cats in Australia, rats on the islands of Oceania – there are plenty of examples. We will not recall the situations created hundreds and tens of years ago, but humanity is still stepping on the same rake, and an example of this is the Asian snakehead fish brought to North America.
The natural habitat of the snakehead fish is the Far East. It inhabits reservoirs from the Yangtze to the Amur River and, being a predator, plays an important role in regulating the number of small and medium-sized fish and even small mammals. The snakehead looks very impressive – its head, similar to a snake, is crowned by a massive meter-long body decorated with a long dorsal fin.
The natural habitat of the snakehead is not too favorable – the fish often finds itself in silted, saturated with clay and organic water. Therefore, nature has made this creature a real terminator, able to survive in the most extreme conditions. Like all fish, the snakehead breathes with gills, but, in addition, it has nadzhabernye respiratory organs – a unique device that allows you to breathe atmospheric air.
The predatory fish has dense, abundantly covered with mucus scales, which reliably protects it from accidental damage, the teeth of other predators and even parasites. Due to its relatively modest size, the snakehead cannot compete with adult catfish and pike, but this fish successfully hunts for young animals of these species, gradually destroying dangerous competitors in the reservoir.
Snakeheads are not going to die, even if a river or lake becomes completely uninhabitable – they dry up or are subjected to chemical contamination. In such cases, these biotherminators simply crawl overland to a neighboring reservoir! The fish moves on land like a snake, using the powerful musculature of its long body, and it is not afraid of long hikes – the snakehead can do up to 5 days without water.
If there is no water in the foreseeable future at all, for example, during a drought, the snakehead sinks to the bottom and creates a capsule of slime and mud around itself, in which it can stay for up to 2 months. This is more than enough to wait for rains and filling of reservoirs.
It remains to add that the snakehead is incredibly prolific. The females of these fish reach sexual maturity in two years and after that they annually make from 1 to 5 eggs. There are about 30 thousand eggs in each clutch, so the predator quickly captures any fresh water body.
Someone may object that the number of caviar is not an indicator, because some species throw millions of eggs. But only these prolific fish do not care about their offspring and leave them to their fate, which is why most of them die. And snakeheads are caring parents. A pair of fish prepares a nest of algae before laying eggs, and after the appearance of the fry, it protects them from predators for a month until they become fast and strong enough.
In China, the snakehead is a natural species and there is a complex but effective natural population regulation system consisting of large predators, numerous Chinese fishermen and some species diseases. But what happens if you move a predatory and hardy fish to a place where there are no adjustment mechanisms?
Unfortunately, the snakehead has very tasty and lean meat, which is liked by absolutely all lovers of fish dishes. Because of this, fish began to be bred in the reservoirs of different regions of China, in Africa, Indonesia, Mongolia and even in some republics. The boom in this delicious and prolific fish began in the 60s of the last century and it was not possible to isolate the snakehead in the rates and pools of nurseries everywhere.
The tenacious fish escaped from the reservoirs assigned to it and got into the natural environment, where it adapted well. Where the snakehead took root, they immediately realized that there was little good in this. The predator quickly took over rivers and lakes, destroying other species, including those that feed on plant food. Where they dominate, aquatic vegetation is rapidly developing and the once clean water turns into a disgusting slush, in which only the snakehead is good.
The sad experience of the 20th century did not teach anything to American lovers of delicious fish, and in 2013 they began to actively import snakeheads to the United States for breeding in local rivers, lakes and rates. Immigrants from Asia liked the conditions in North America and the fish began to actively breed and capture water areas.
Today, snakehead has become a problem for 15 American states, in half of which fish are already ready to recognize as an ecological disaster. The damage to the ichthyofauna is enormous, and even if the snakehead suddenly dies out, the situation will have to wait for many years to improve.
Keywords: USA | China | Animals | North America | Fish | Predators | Far East | Fisherman