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Science in the News
Snakeheads Invade Maryland

Snakeheads Invade Maryland

Channa argus (juveniles)

The story broke last summer: A land-slithering, carnivorous fish was on the loose in Maryland. Native to Asia, the northern snakehead made its way to a tiny Crofton pond when a local man released fish purchased from a live seafood market.

Snakeheads prey on fishes, crustaceans, reptiles, and sometimes even birds—altering the balance of native species. With such a voracious predator, state biologists took no chances. In September, they applied an approved pesticide and collected over 800 snakehead specimens. The large scales on the head are what give snakeheads their name.

At Left:
Channa argus (juveniles)
These juvenile northern snakeheads were among hundreds from the Crofton pond. Able to hibernate in mud during cold or drought, they’re hardy enough to survive in most US freshwaters. More specimens are on view at the Museum in the Science in the News exhibit case.

This Museum houses the largest preserved fish collection in the world—an estimated 3.5 million specimens. Among them are over 1,500 snakeheads representing 21 of the 27 known species native to Africa and Asia. Museum scientists use these specimens to identify and study snakeheads in their natural habitats and where they have been introduced. Museum's fish collection

Visit the Department of Systematic Biology Division of Fishes website.

"Science in the News" features Natural History issues in the news media and interesting objects from the Museum's collections. We will frequently introduce new issues that come from our research, collections, exhibits, and projects.