Wednesday July 27, 2022

Northwest News Network

Lamprey have been around for more than 450 million years before dinosaurs roamed the earth. The eel-like fish survived ice ages and heatwaves.

Now, they aren’t doing well, and scientists don’t know exactly why, but they do know lamprey have struggled getting around large concrete dams in the Pacific Northwest.

Not only are Pacific lamprey culturally important to Northwest tribes, they also are imperiled. In addition, young lamprey help filter river water as they feed on algae in the sediment. After adult lamprey die, their bodies provide key nutrients to river ecosystems.

Scientists know very little about the lamprey life cycle, including how young Pacific lamprey pass through dams.

“The more we can learn about lamprey as they’re passing through dams, that’s kind of the big black box right now,” said Bob Mueller, an earth scientist with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

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