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A deathly odor suggests a new sustainable tool for controlling a costly invasive species

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Here we confirm a long-standing anecdotal observation; the sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) actively avoids the odor emitted by decaying conspecifics. We extracted the semiochemical mixture produced by the putrefying carcasses of sea lampreys via Soxhlet extraction in ethanol and exposed groups of 10 migratory-phase lampreys to either the putrefaction extract (N = 8) or an ethanol control (N = 8) in a laboratory raceway. Sea lampreys rapidly avoided the putrefaction odor while exhibiting no response to the ethanol control. This response was elicited with a diluted mixture (1:373 000) and was maintained for 40 min (the duration of exposure), after which the lampreys quickly returned to their nominal distribution. The ease with which this odor is obtained, and the rapid and consistent behavioral response, suggests the substance will prove useful as a repellent in the sea lamprey control program carried out in the Laurentian Great Lakes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Shark Defense Technologies, LLC, P.O. Box 2593, Oak Ridge, NJ 07438, USA. 2: Michigan State University, 13 Natural Resources Building, East Lansing, MI 48823, USA.

Publication date: July 8, 2011

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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