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WATER FLEA IN LAKE ONTARIO

A lull in the seemingly continuous invasion of the Great Lakes ecosystem by foreign invaders may have ended recently, with the discovery of a new species of water flea in Lake Ontario.

The discovery was no laughing matter for fishermen near Brighton, Ont., who reported a pungent odor and a substance like wet fibreglass insulation clogging their lines so badly they couldn't be reeled in. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters said the problems were so bad that several charter boats had to cancel paid trips.

Scientists discovered that the substance was made of masses of Cercopagis pengoi, cousin to the European spiny water flea that invaded the lakes via ship ballast water tanks in the 1980s. Aside from fouling fishing lines and nets, the organism will feed on zooplankton and could mean changes along the entire Lake Ontario food chain.