JUN 05, 2015 8:37 AM PDT

Australian Scientists Concerned About Monster Fish Invasion

WRITTEN BY: Andrew J. Dunlop
We've all seen the cheaply made science fiction/horror movies: Sharknado, Piranha 3D. But it turns out a real life monster fish may be on its way toward Australia, and officials there are concerned, very concerned. The fish in question is called the climbing perch, otherwise known as Anabas testudineus.

The climbing perch

It's not twenty feet long. It doesn't eat people. There are no lasers involved. But, the climbing perch can breathe on land for about 24 hours. It can pull itself along on land using spikes on its bony gill covers. It can survive for up to six months in the mud of a dry creek bed. It can survive in brackish water. It may be able to survive in salt water. When swallowed whole, it can puff itself up to stick in the throat of a predator causing the predator to starve to death or suffocate! The thing is, this fish has so many survival strategies, Australian marine biologists are worried that if the climbing perch establishes itself in Australia, it would be an ecological disaster for many native species like fish, turtles, and some birds. The climbing perch could very possibly wipe out whole hosts of species, out competing some and eating others.



The climbing perch is native to Asia where in some areas it is an important food source. It is high in protein, and because it can survive for so long, in such harsh conditions, it keeps out of water without refrigeration for much longer than many other fish.

But it is this very ability to survive that has allowed the climbing perch to, over the course of about forty years, make its way to Indonesia, and then into Papua New Guinea where it overwhelmed native fish populations. Recently a few individuals have been found on two Australian islands, the Torres Strait islands of Boigu and Saibai, a mere 90 miles off the Australian mainland. Marine biologists are fairly sure that the fish can't actually survive in the ocean long enough to swim such a distance, but they are concerned that the climbing perch could make its way to the Australian mainland in, or perhaps even clinging onto the bottom of a ship, or tossed overboard by fishermen as live bait.

Dr. Nathan Waltham, a James Cook University scientist is currently tracking the perch's movement. He's concerned that even a few individuals in one waterhole in Australia, could crawl over land from one waterhole to the next, laying eggs and eventually reproducing and surviving in vast numbers.

To head off this threat, Waltham has created a program called TopWATER, which aims to educate the public about the threat posed by such highly invasive species. "It's only through active education and monitoring," Waltham says, "in partnership with relevant authorities and local communities, that we can keep it under control. If we do it early enough."

In the mean time Australian biologists are capturing climbing perch specimens and studying them in the lab to learn more about their strengths and their weaknesses. They are hoping that they can prevent the climbing perch from reaching the Australian mainland. If they can't, they're looking to find something that could help them eradicate this monster should the need arise.


(Sources: phys.org discovery.com)
About the Author
  • Andrew J. Dunlop lives and writes in a little town near Boston. He's interested in space, the Earth, and the way that humans and other species live on it.
You May Also Like
APR 20, 2020
Earth & The Environment
APR 20, 2020
Deepwater Horizon: 10 Years Later
Today marks the tenth year since the Deepwater Horizon disaster—the most massive accidental offshore oil spill eve ...
MAY 04, 2020
Earth & The Environment
MAY 04, 2020
Predicting ocean acidification five years in the future
Research published recently in Nature Communications offers a new tool to predict ocean acidity years in the future. Whi ...
MAY 22, 2020
Neuroscience
MAY 22, 2020
Diesel Fumes Increase Risk for Developing Parkinson's
Around 10 million people worldwide have Parkinson's disease, a progressive nervous system disorder that affects move ...
MAY 31, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 31, 2020
These Penguin Chicks Now Face the Trials of Adulthood
Like any other bird species, adult penguins follow the tried and true tradition of raising their young close to the nest ...
JUN 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
JUN 14, 2020
Why Are There So Few Black People in STEM?
On June 10th, 2020, thousands of STEM scientists and organizations around the world went on strike to protest systemic r ...
JUN 29, 2020
Earth & The Environment
JUN 29, 2020
Saharan dust plume arrives to the US
A giant plume of dust from the Saharan Desert has been traveling over the Gulf of Mexico, Central American, and into the ...
Loading Comments...