A corresponding video (credit MSU, Kevin Epling) is availble here.
EAST LANSING, Mich. - On appearance alone, one wonders how the eel-like sea lamprey could ever get a date. Now scientists at Michigan State University have made ground-breaking discoveries of how male lampreys attract mates.
According to a paper published in the April 5 edition of Science Magazine, Weiming Li, MSU assistant professor of fisheries and wildlife, and his research team have devised revolutionary new methods to isolate and understand the chemicals that the fish release to lure females.
Their discoveries have the potential to lead to new ways to control sea lamprey populations in areas where they are destroying sport fish populations. The research also could help boost populations in places where lampreys are considered a delicacy.
"The identification has taken a long time," Li said. "It was a difficult task, but we have finally found a way to isolate and identify this pheromone that has been suspected, but never documented. It has given us a new way to look at pheromone communication."
Sea lampreys are aquatic vertebrates native to the Atlantic Ocean that likely found their way into the Great Lakes via shipping channels. Sea lampreys latch on to popular fish, such as salmon and trout, with a sucking disk and sharp teeth. They suck on body fluids, often scarring and killing host fish.
A sea lamprey, in its parasitic life, can kill 40 or more pounds of fish. They are so destructive that under some conditions, only one of seven fish attacked by a sea lamprey will survive.
Li's team members were: Michael Siefkes, doctoral student; Honggao Yan and Douglas Gage, associate professors of biochemistry and molecular biology; Qin Liu and Sangseon Yun, research associates; and Alexander Scott, senior scientist, Center for Environment, Fisheries a
Contact: Weiming Li
Michigan State University