Looking For Lamprey
PLATTSBURGH CITY - Sept. 28, 2012
A man wades through a shallow pool near the mouth of the Saranac River, the boxy device strapped on his back emitting distinctive electronic sounds. He appears to be a cross between a fisherman and a Ghostbuster: cap, waders, rubber boots, and what appears to a crude knock-off of a proton pack cabled to a long white pole he uses to probe the water.
Wading next to him is a woman wearing sunglasses, her dark hair up in a bun, holding a plastic bucket in one hand and a pole topped with a mesh net in the other. When there's a long beep, the woman scoops up something from the water and dumps it into the bucket.
|(Left to right) George Maynard, Alex Sotola and Aude Lochet net another baby lamprey in the Saranac River.|
Aude explains later that she's working on a project involving sea lampreys, an invasive lake species that spawns upriver.
According to my online research the offspring from those aquatic honeymoons work their way downstream into Lake Champlain, later becoming adults to continue the cycle.
Also from my online research I learn that adult lamprey die after spawning but the thousands of eggs laid by the female -- up to 100,000 -- drift downriver and burrow into the riverbed, feeding on algae, microscopic organisms and detritus, growing into wormlike larva.
An adult lamprey -- which can grow up to 24 inches long -- looks like an eel with a circular sucker mouth ringed with teeth. The parasite attaches itself to a fish, boring in to drink its blood and fluids. Most victims are species like trout which have commercial value.
Aude and her companions are looking for young lamprey as part of her study. The pack that Alex is wearing emits a shock similar to the charge given off by an electric fence. The long beep is a warning that current is being generated and that no one should reach into the water during that time.
The purpose of the shock is to jolt the young lamprey to the surface from their ensconced safety in the muck at the bottom of the pool. Aude will take the lamprey back to the lab to determine where they have originated from upstream. George explains that a water source can be tagged by the chemicals (pollution) and minerals peculiar to that source.
|A baby lamprey looks cute but it will grow up into a blood-sucking multi-fanged killer. At this point this one is a transformer -- so-called because it's transforming into an adult, developing eyes and a round disc of teeth.|