News FocusINVASIVE SPECIES

A Foul Problem

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Science  11 May 2012:
Vol. 336, Issue 6082, pp. 665
DOI: 10.1126/science.336.6082.665

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Summary

Not all potential invaders lurk inside cargo ships. Many live in plain sight, clinging to vessels' outer hulls. From mussels to barnacles to algae, studies suggest that such "hull-fouling" organisms could pose an invasion threat that is as great as if not greater than that from ballast creatures, researchers say. So far, however, regulators haven't addressed the hull-fouling issue, in part because it's not clear how boats can effectively get rid of their clinging hitchhikers. Researchers are also still trying to understand which hull organisms can withstand long sea journeys that are fraught with extreme swings in temperatures and salinities.

  • * Daniel Strain is a journalist in Washington, D.C.