Invasive Asian Carp may pose a greater threat to the Great Lakes than previously feared, according to a new report from the University of Michigan.
Peter Alsip, an author on the study, said previously researchers believed spread of the carp would be slowed because there is not enough plankton available in the Great Lakes for them to eat. But Alsip said he found that carp can also survive on detritus – things like dead organisms or waste from other water creatures.
The carp can even eat toxic algae.
“We found that habitat is more expansive than the previous studies had suggested,” Alsip said.
Alsip said his research shows the fish can survive on things like detritus long enough to cross wide expanses of lake.
“What our study suggests is that if they feed opportunistically this could facilitate their spread and manage any weight loss until they get to these really productive areas,” he said.
One surprising possibility suggested by these findings is that a limited number of productive Lake Michigan habitats could actually help the spread of Asian Carp.
“If multiple fish get into the lake and they need to find a mate, their probability of finding a mate is going to be higher if they are only being drawn to a few productive locations,” Alsip said.
According to Alsip, once the carp reach Lake Michigan, they would be well suited to spread across the lake, and quickly.
This story originally ran on Michigan Radio.