May 17, 2009

Researchers using scent to trap lampreys

Researchers say they have begun placing a pheromone in Michigan streams in an attempt to lure female sea lampreys into traps.

Researcher Nick Johnson of the Hammond Bay Biological Station said the pheromone was designed by scientists at Michigan State University to mimic a spawning scent emitted by male sea lampreys, the Detroit Free Press reported Sunday.

Once they smell it, they follow it, Johnson said of the female of the prehistoric species.

Since arriving in the Great Lakes eight decades ago, sea lampreys have become a destructive species. The animals have been blamed for decimating native fish populations, including that of the lake trout.

While a previously released chemical has limited the number of sea lampreys in the Great Lakes, the animals remained a invasive species threat.

Mike Siefkes, a Great Lakes Fishery Commission lamprey control specialist, told the Free Press the pheromone release in 10 Michigan streams appears to work.

It has shown a dramatic impact on the behavior of lamprey, he said.