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Two new species of non-native zooplankton found in the Great Lakes

Elizabeth Whitmore and Joseph Connolly, Cornell University
Diaphanosoma fluviatile, recently found in western Lake Erie.

Two additional new species of zooplankton were discovered in the Great Lakes. Researchers from the Cornell University Biological Field Station found the two new species in western Lake Erie during routine water sampling. They're native to South America and Asia, but are currently not considered invasive species.

That's according to James Watkins, a researcher with Cornell University.

“Currently there are very similar native species, so we don't expect much of a dramatic change to the ecosystem because of this, but they could compete with some of the native zooplankton,” says Watkins.

Cornell collects zooplankton from 72 stations across the five Great Lakes twice a year under a collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Great Lakes National Program Office.

These newly discovered species bring the total number of non-native zooplankton discovered in the Great Lakes to four within the past three years.

One of the newly discovered zooplanktons is Diaphanosoma fluviatile, a native of South America, Central America, and the Carribbean. Lake Erie is much farther north than it has previously been found in the U.S. D. fluviatile has been found previously in Florida, Louisiana, and Texas.

The other newly discovered zooplankton is Mesocylops pehpeiensis. This organism is native to temperate and tropical regions of Asia, but it has been found in the Southern U.S., Mexico, and Cuba. This is likely due to transfer of ornamental aquatic plants.

The new zooplanktons were found at very low levels. Watkins says his group will continue to monitor these organisms in the Great Lakes.