Invasive Species: Nature’s Junk Food?

Lauren Pintor, assistant professor of aquatic ecology at the Ohio State University, co-authored a study that appeared in Ecology Letters in which she and her colleague studied the effect of invasive species on the diet of native predators.

What they found suggests that invasive species might be nature’s junk food for local predators. The study suggests that native predators do best when reserving their consumption of foreign species as an occasional snack. Reasons can range from nutrition to the ability to eat or digest unfamiliar creatures. Most often foreign species help predators only when they become a supplemental food source.

However, there are cases in which an invasive species have become successful primary food sources and in some cases have even saved an endangered species. Familiar to many Ohioans, the European round goby that has been wreaking havoc in the depths of Lake Erie has probably saved a local endangered species, the Lake Erie watersnake. The clever watersnake adapted to eating the round goby and is no longer considered endangered.