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New study shows ships bringing invasive species into Mediteranean

A new Tel Aviv University study finds that ships play an unknowing but dominant role in introducing and dispersing these tough-shelled non-indigenous organisms into new environments. The research showed that these marine invertebrates hitch a ride on half of all the marine vessels passing through Israel’s Mediterranean coast.

The research was conducted by Mey-Tal Gewing, of TAU’s School of Zoology and led by Dr. Noa Shenkar, also of TAU’s Department of Zoology and of The Steinhardt Museum of Natural History and Israel National Center for Biodiversity Studies. It was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2017-07-marine-vessels-unsuspecting-hosts-invasive.html#jCp

According to the research published by Tel Aviv University’s School of Zoology, half the ships passing along the Mediterranean coast of Israel are carrying invasive ascidians, presenting a global threat to ecosystems around the world.

TAU’s Dr. Noa Shenkar, who led the research, said: “These organisms are passing through the Suez Canal, latching onto ropes and the bottom of the ship”.

“These organisms are well known in the US and Canada,” Dr. Shenkar said. “In Israel, they are passing through the Suez Canal, latching onto ropes and the bottom of the ship. They’re filter feeders, so they cover and clog every surface they latch onto, creating a lot of drag for the ship and damaging marine biodiversity in their new environments. They’re a major threat to our coasts and are very costly to ship owners.”

Among the wide occurrence of non-indigenous ascidians (NIA), TAU researchers also discovered a Caribbean species new to the region. The findings, state the authors of the report, “strongly support the hypothesis that marine vessels constitute a substantial vector for the introduction and dispersal of NIAs”.

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