Similar to invasive insects like lanternflies, stink bugs and Asian lady beetles, invasive aquatic life persists as a point of concern for local biological authorities.

At the end of October, a group of Penn State students from Behrend campus reported the discovery of an invasive shrimp species known as the “bloody red shrimp” (or Hemimysis anomala) in Lake Erie.

One local professor weighed in on the topic, informing Huntingdon County residents of the shrimp’s origins and potential effects.

Dr. Douglas Glazier, a professor of biology at Juniata College, has expertise in studying local “shrimp.”

“I have been carrying out local research on a freshwater shrimp (Gammarus minus) that inhabits local springs and streams,” Glazier said. “These ‘shrimp’ are crustaceans in the order Amphipoda.”

The bloody red shrimp are not part of this group, however. They belong to another order of crustaceans known as “mysid shrimp.”

“Neither amphipods or mysids are true shrimp, which are in the order Decapoda (including shrimp, prawns, crayfish, lobsters and crabs),” Glazier said.

Despite lacking expertise with the bloody red shrimp, Glazier was able to provide information regarding its origin.

“The native habitat of Hemimysis anomala is the Ponto-Caspian region of Eurasia,” Glazier said. “It originally lived only in the Black Sea, Azov Sea and Caspian Sea and connecting drainage systems. However, since the 1950s it has been spreading across Europe. In 2006 it was first discovered in the Great Lakes. Currently, it appears to be spreading throughout the Great Lakes. (Other) invasive species, including H. anomala, and other Ponto-Caspian animals (e.g., the zebra mussel) are often transported in the ballast water of ships.”

Glazier was quick to point out that the negative effects of the bloody red shrimp in Lake Erie are unknown. However, the bloody red shrimp is not the only invasive species to arrive in Lake Erie.

“It is not yet known what effect this species will have on the ecosystems of these lakes,” Glazier said. “The mysid shrimp H. anomala is just one more species, native to the Ponto-Caspian region, that has invaded the Great Lakes. Ricciardi & MacIsaac (2000) list 7 Ponto-Caspian animal species that invaded during 1986-1998. Ricciardi (2006) has estimated that a new invasive species arrives in the Great Lakes every 28 weeks on average.”

The effect these species may have on Lake Erie is well known.

“A major fear is that if these invasions occur for other species, they may cause a major ‘ecological shakedown’ in the Great Lakes,” Glazier said. “The Great Lakes ecosystems may become more like that of the Ponto-Caspian aquatic ecosystems. For example, the amphipod Echinogammarus ischnus is apparently replacing the native amphipod Gammarus fasciatus. If E. ischnus were to reach Raystown Lake, it may result in the demise of G. fasciatus there, as well.”

The bloody red shrimp, Glazier believes, could also affect Raystown Lake if it were to reach the area.

“Currently the presence of the bloody red shrimp in Lake Erie should have little or no direct effect on Huntingdon County,” Glazier said. “However, if it invaded Raystown Lake it may have an effect on that ecosystem.”

The effects, however, have the potential to be negative or positive.

“Mysid shrimp, such as the bloody red shrimp, feed heavily on microscopic open water animals called zooplankton, which provide food for many small young fishes in Raystown Lake,” Glazier said. “If the bloody red shrimp became established in Raystown Lake, it is possible that it could negatively affect fish populations that depend on zooplankton. On the other hand, it could also provide a new source of food for some fishes, which would be a positive effect.”

An academic article supplied by Glazier noted several more potential effects found during investigations of already-introduced mysids.

These effects include “severe declines and compositional shifts of microzooplankton communities, reduced abundances and growth rates of pelagic fishes and altered nutrient and contaminant cycling.”

Joshua can be reached at jblattenberger@huntingdondailynews.com.

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