It’s small, really small, but apparently savage. The scientific name for this creature originating in eastern Europe in the Black Sea is Dikerogammarus Villosus.
It and its nasty cousin Dikerogammarus haemobaphes, are only about 2-3cm long, but Hugh MacIsaac, a scientist and professor of biology at the University of Windsor who specializes in invasive species, said the small bottom-dwelling shrimp apparently attack anything their size or even bigger, including small fish.
The creatures gained access to western Europe when a canal was dug to link the Danube and Rhine Rivers in order to accommodate shipping and the popular river cruises.
The shrimp were reported in the UK in 2010, probably through the ballast water in cargo ships.
Professor MacIsaac is quoted saying the “shrimp” can completely take over the ecosystem of water courses because they are so voracious.
There are concerns they could devastate, even eliminate native species.
In the US state of Michigan the Department of Natural Resources officially banned the creatures this month over fears of what it could do the acquatic life if it made it into the Great Lakes.
Ships leaving Europe with fresh-water ballast are supposed to empty their tanks and replace it with sea water, which should kill any fresh water hitchhikers like the Dikerogammarus
Since 2006 in Canada, ships from Europe are inspected at the mouth of the St Lawrence Seaway by Canadian and American officials to ensure the ballast water protocol.
While this greatly reduces the chance of another invasive species, professor MacIsaac says there are no “absolutes”.
Zebra mussels, which have cost billions of dollars in control and removal measures, with mostly limited results, arrived in the Great Lakes prior to the ballast-switch protocols.