Investigating Invading Species

The Fish Site
by The Fish Site
8 September 2010, at 1:00am

CHINA - Professor Rudy Gozlan, from Bournemouth University, UK has been studying the the invasive species Pseudorasbora parva, or topmouth gudgeon, in China.

Joined by colleagues from BU and the Chinese Academy of Science, Professor Gozlan travelled over 15,000 km through 15 different provinces, collecting samples of the topmouth gudgeon, from 33 sites.

Professor Gozlan said: “Most of the places where we sampled people eat the fish, but it is not considered a prime catch and as such they had great difficulties understanding why we would come all away from England to catch this fish."

The species is native to South East China, but has spread to other parts of Asia, Europe and North Africa with some alarming implications.

Professor Gozlan explained: “The evolutionary theory tells us that species have evolved to be extremely well adapted to their environment. So how come some species are able to rapidly adapt to extremely warm and dry environments such as North Africa and cold and wet ones such as Northern Poland, and what are the biological implications of such adaptation?”

Topmouth gudgeon are healthy carriers of a parasite called Sphaerothecum destruens. This is deadly to salmon, trout, carp and some endangered species. Death by the parasite would have a severely detrimental impact on biodiversity and commercial fish farming.

Professor Gozlan and his ecology team at BU will study the live samples of topmouth gudgeon, measuring population numbers, reproductive rates, parasite communities, size and other factors.

This data will help identify the evolutionary shifts that have allowed the species to adapt to different climates. Professor Gozlan will then translate the result into a climatic model, enabling him to estimate where else the fish may spread to.

The research will help environmental agencies to take preventive measures in high risk areas such as the USA, Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Professor Gozlan explains that the research will also “increase our understanding of evolutionary drivers as well as adaptation processes during a biological invasion”.