Manatee County ponds were recently home to nearly 400 invasive fish, known for their large size, ability to survive in harsh environments, and “extremely aggressive nature.”
Oh, and they can hunt on land too.
It’s the first time researchers have documented an invasive snapdragon population on Florida’s Gulf Coast, according to a study recently published in Aquatic Invasions, an international peer-reviewed journal focused on aquatic invasive species. .
Native to Asia, this fish can outlive, hunt, and outmaneuver Florida’s local wildlife, posing a threat to the native ecosystems of the waterways where it is found. The population is in Broward County, over 150 miles away.
“I thought it was interesting because it was so distant from other populations known here in Florida, which suggested that this was probably a case that someone had brought over from South Florida.
“They are very large predatory fish and consume a wide variety of prey, including fish, reptiles and amphibians,” Neilson said in an interview.
The researchers were first contacted by a resident called a fish enthusiast who made the discovery. The research took about two years from start to finish, according to Neilson.
On a rainy day in 2020, several Snakeheads were seen sliding onto the bank of a pond after being lured by a nearby green tree frog. In what has been described as a “rarely seen behavior,” researchers documented how the fish twisted its body quickly toward the frog to catch it. Successful water hunting.
That’s just one reason why fish pose a threat to Florida’s wildlife. Fish are durable.
“It’s an interesting behavior, but importation also increases your chances of survival,” Neilson said. “If you have an animal that can swallow surface air and use it for breathing, it can survive transportation.”
Snakehead is a popular species in the worldwide ornamental fish trade and puts up good fights for anglers as well. Neilson believes that anglers living on the West Coast of Florida wanted unique sport fishing in their own backyards and may have brought animals from across the state. The truth about how it got into Manatee County may never be revealed.
The researchers compared the genes of the Manatee County pond population to the fish population found in Broward County. According to Neilson, they are “nearly identical” and may be related to the Thai snakehead. South Florida’s population has been thriving for more than 20 years.
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A study found that a pond just east of Interstate 75 contained other invasive species like Asian swamp eels and walking catfish. Scientists transported the dead fish carcasses collected in the pond to a nearby Manatee County landfill.
Florida wildlife biologists with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helped kill nearly 400 snakehead snakeheads found in ponds, some of which were registered in the Florida Museum’s ichthyological collection, the museum said. Stated.
“The eradication effort appears to have been successful and it no longer exists in Manatee County,” Neilson said. However, he added a warning: some individuals may still be swimming in nearby waters.
“If something is seen, the public is encouraged to report it.”
Invasive species sightings can be reported to the Wildlife Commission’s Invasive Species Hotline at 1-888-483-4681. Other invasive species can be reported online. Ivegot1.org