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New Shedd Exhibit Highlights Great Lakes' Greatest Threats

By Samantha Abernethy in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 12, 2013 10:00PM

The Shedd Aquarium debuted a new exhibit this week highlighting the wildlife of the Great Lakes. Among the river otter, walleyes and catfish are a few invasive species wreaking havoc on the Great Lakes.

It's not all evil invaders, though. The feature exhibit allows you to get close to a Lake Sturgeon and even touch it, which feels like wet leather. You can also see dozens of native fish, a river otter and other animals swimming in Lake Michigan.

The exhibit of course features the Asian Carp, which we've written about at length. There are three Bighead Carp on display, and those were actually taken from the Humboldt Park lagoon. No one knows how they got in there, but they're enormous. The largest one on display weighs 62 pounds, but they can weigh up to 100 pounds.

One key invader is missing: The zebra mussel. Aquarist Kurt Hettiger told Chicagoist they couldn't house zebra mussels because they ate too much too fast, and there was a concern they could spread. The aquarium took a mold of zebra mussels to display instead.

The most menacing-looking invasive predator on display is the sea lamprey. These are native to the Atlantic Ocean, but they came into freshwater to spawn. Now they've followed the canals all the way into the Great Lakes where they now spawn and live year-round. Hettiger told us one of these can eat 40 pounds of fish in a year. We've included several photos of the river otter to make up for the frightening photos of lampreys in the gallery above.