Attack of the killer shrimps

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Attack of the killer shrimps

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The story

It may have been killer piranhas hitting our cinema screens this summer but now something not quite as scary but potentially devastating to British wildlife has hit our water ways.

Dikerogammarus villosus is a tiny shrimp of between 3 and 30mm but has been given the moniker the killer shrimp because of its aggression and nasty habit of killing and maiming other small invertebrates which it often doesn’t eat.

The shrimp’s native habitat is in areas of Eastern Europe but has quickly spread to waterways in Germany, France and Holland.

It looks like it fancies a bit more sight-seeing as it has arrived in Britain having been spotted by keen-eyed anglers in a reservoir in Cambridgeshire.  The Environment Agency has alerted people to be on the lookout for this vicious predator, not because it poses any threat to humans but to stop its spread to other areas of the country and halt its rampage against our native water animals.

Teaching idea

The killer shrimp is another example of an invasive species that will have an impact on our environment. It feeds on many small invertebrates including our native shrimps and so has an impact on animals further up the food web including birds and mammals.

Students might think that a tiny creature such as this could pose no problems for a larger one but by looking at how it affects a food web they can see that this is not the case.  They may also be surprised at the amount of effort that organisations like the Environment Agency put into monitoring the creature and others like it (watch the BBC video below).

A discussion could be started on what we can do about the killer shrimps.  Should we make an effort to destroy them all or is its movement around Europe just an example of nature at work and so should be left alone?

Teaching resource

The killer shrimps PowerPoint contains a starter activity which introduces the killer shrimp and asks students to discuss the implications of it entering Britain.

The second slide is a food web of a pond.  This can be printed out and given to the students which they can use to draw out food chains and classify the organisms as producers/consumers/herbivores/carnivores/predator/prey.

The final slide informs them what the killer shrimp kills and asks them a series of questions to help them to work out what would happen to the pond if the killer shrimps were introduced.


It could be worse

News story from the BBC with a video