Some 25 non-native fish species have wiggled their way into the Great Lakes since the 19th century, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates. And while not all have found Lake Michigan to their liking, a number absolutely adore it. Some have mankind to thank for their introduction – think ballast water or the muddy boots […]

Some 25 non-native fish species have wiggled their way into the Great Lakes since the 19th century, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates. And while not all have found Lake Michigan to their liking, a number absolutely adore it. Some have mankind to thank for their introduction – think ballast water or the muddy boots of fishermen – while others are just continuing a slow, evolutionary journey that leads inexorably to our waterways.

Plants, microbes, shrimpy things, fleas, fish – each can outcompete native organisms and throw local ecosystems out of whack. All of this reminds us a little of a certain arcade classic, and the crumbling ruins of earth you’re struggling to defend with a puny green laser gun. This time, however, it’s not quarters we’re losing but a more harmonious ecosystem and one of our greatest natural treasures.    

    

Cylindro

This algae is difficult to spot (it doesn’t float) and produces toxins that can cause liver problems. 

Water Flea

The leading theory is that this zooplankter hitched a ride on African perch deliveries.
New Zealand Mudsnail

In streams, they can account for up to 95 percent of invertebrates.
Faucet Snail

This European native competes with native mollusk species, driving down diversity.
Spiny Waterflea

These chow down on zooplankton, but their spiny tails make them poor food for young fish.
Quagga Mussel

Of Ukrainian extract, these mollusks are often confused with the notorious zebra mussel.
Asiatic Clams

Originally introduced by Chinese immigrants as tasty treats, these clams clog industrial pipes.
Western Mosquitofish

These mosquito-catchers give birth to about 60 live young at a time.
Curly-Leaf Pondweed

This fast-growing plant can grow in waterways uninhabitable by noninvasive plants.
Eurasian Water Milfoil

This devilish plant forms floating masses that choke out green life.
This article appears in the October 2013 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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