TechSnakehead invasion: Missouri angler catches shocking predator fish

Snakehead invasion: Missouri angler catches shocking predator fish

Snakehead - illustrative photo
Snakehead - illustrative photo
Images source: © Shadow Ayush, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

9:37 AM EDT, June 7, 2024

In Missouri, an astonished angler caught an unusual fish that resembled a snake. It turned out to be a snakehead (Channa argus), an invasive freshwater fish species in the family Channidae that surprised not only fishing enthusiasts but also scientists.

According to IFLScience, the specimen caught on May 25 below the Wappapello Lake dam in Wayne County is already the fourth instance of this fish appearing in Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) confirms that yet another discovered snakehead highlights the species' incredible adaptability.

The fish that's conquering America

The northern snakehead is not a native American resident. It originates from Asia and most likely arrived in the United States after an accident at a fish farm in Arkansas in 2008. Since then, it has effectively spread throughout American waters. This fish can reach up to 3 feet in length, and its body is covered with scales resembling a python's pattern.

As a predator, the snakehead hunts other fish, crustaceans, small reptiles, birds, and mammals. Moreover, snakeheads can breathe atmospheric air and move on land for short distances, making them exceptionally resilient and difficult to eradicate invasive inhabitants of aquatic ecosystems.

The recent case of catching a snakehead particularly shocked the finder, who left the fish on concrete, thinking it would die quickly. The fish survived several hours on land, which surprised even local experts. Interestingly, MDC recommends that the fish should be killed after catching a snakehead and confirming that it is indeed this species. The institution states on its website: "Kill the fish by severing the head, freezing the fish, or putting it on ice for an extended period of time." They also remind us not to release the fish or throw it on the shore as it could survive a considerable amount of time out of the water and migrate back to the water or to a new water body.

This case illuminates the problem of invasive species in ecosystems, where they can severely threaten native species and biological balance. Despite their surprising adaptability and survival abilities, northern snakeheads remain in the crosshairs of both anglers and biologists.

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