- (Photo: U.S. Geological Survey)
Government reports have confirmed that the U.S. Southeast coast and the Gulf of Mexico may well be under attack by cannibal shrimp.
It appears as though large, shrimp-eating shrimp have appeared along the U.S. Southeast coast and the Gulf of Mexico, prompting some to feel concerned about how the native shrimp are going to survive. For those who may have slept through the eco-system lesson in high school, perhaps a game of Fishy will better explain.
The new shrimp that have moved in are called Asian tiger shrimp, although they are certainly not shrimpy in size when compared to their fellow shrimp mates. The tiger shrimp is 13 inches long and can weigh up to a quarter of a pound.
The domestic white, brown and pink shrimp are typically less than eight inches and just a touch over an ounce.
All shrimp are bottom feeders and live by collecting their food sources from the bottom of the ocean. However, because tiger shrimp are so much greater in size, they will likely not only eat more than their fair share of food, leaving little for their shrimpy friends.
They may also move on to eating their friends well.
"Bigger shrimp would eat more and these get so big they also eat small shrimp and fish, marine ecologist James A. Morris said," according to the Washington Post.
Biologists have not yet been able to explain the increased number of tiger shrimp so far outside of their native area. Some suspect that recent hurricanes may have displaced some shrimp farms in the Caribbean.
"I think it's quite possible they're being swept up from the Caribbean," said Pam Fuller, a biologist who keeps a federal invasive species database at the U.S. Geological Survey's Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainesville, Fla. "There are large farms there that appear to be connected directly to the ocean. Some of those were destroyed in hurricanes. We don't know if perhaps a large bunch got loose and swept up here and became established. Nobody knows. That's one reason we want to do the genetic work."
The National Oceanican and Atmospheric Administration will launch a further investigation into the issue.
"The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems," NOAA marine ecologist James Morris said in a statement. "Our efforts will include assessments of the biology and ecology of this non-native species and attempts to predict impacts to economically and ecologically important species of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico."
While the tiger shrimp are edible, there is a largely non-existent market for their sale in the United States and no shrimp farm which keeps them currently; tiger shrimp farms in the distant past were unsuccessful.