Why we do science–lamprey repellants

Nobody forgets their first gander at the business end of a sea lamprey.  Petromyzon marinus  is a fish that attaches to another fish, rasps out a hole, and sucks out its prey’s  precious bodily fluids. It is impossible not to have mixed feelings when contemplating the sea lamprey.  When you finish admiring the frankly gorgeous, utilitarian design of its mouthparts (Steve Jobs likely holds the patent) it is perfectly natural to give way to a second, more emotional,  “gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhh!”.

The sea lamprey is also an invasive species, with nasty consequences for the fisheries of North America’s great lakes.

Thus it was a pleasant surprise this morning, over my second cup of coffee, to discover the following video on Boing Boing. I save Boing Boing–one of the great cultural websites that also likes the odd science story–for my Saturday mornings. Michael Wagner, at Michigan State university, recognizing that aquatic organisms tend to avoid chemicals that convey the message “someone I know was recently eaten here”, created his own “eau de lamprey mort”, and was the subject of the aptly titled MSU press release “Sea lampreys fear the smell of death“.  Enjoy.


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