Maritime sea life linked to early European explorers
UNB research points to Champlain, Hudson expeditions bringing mud shrimp, mud worms
Two major food sources for millions of birds and fish in the Bay of Fundy may have been brought to the Maritimes unwittingly by early European explorers.
"There's no way to tell for sure," said researcher Tony Einfeldt, "but it very well could have been him."
Einfeldt's conclusion comes from genetic analysis — comparing the genes of the Bay of Fundy populations of mud shrimp and mud worms to those on European coastlines.
To explain how they got here, Einfeldt had to match movement patterns of the invertebrates with movements in history.
"We know that both of these species are not very good swimmers. They don't disperse naturally very well," he said.
Many invasive species can be traced to ships' ballast water.
Neither shrimp nor worms have ever been found in the ballast water of any modern ship.
However, the first ships that crossed the Atlantic didn't use water for ballast, but rather rocks, sticks and mud.
Mud is where both of these species make their home.
"And the only ships that we know of that did this were the earliest ones used by the expeditions of Samuel de Champlain in the early 1600s and Henry Hudson," he said.
Einfeldt's genetic work has been able to pinpoint several introductions of these species along the East Coast.
"The Bay of Fundy populations most likely came from France and the Bay of Biscay," he said.
"A second introduction that occurred in the Gulf of Maine is more likely from northern Europe, like the Norway, Germany, Denmark area," said Einfeldt.
The researchers are now using new techniques in hopes of determining exactly which coast they came from.
"The reason that many of these birds and fish come to our mud flats is to feed on these prey. There's so many of them," he said.
"The idea that so much of what our ecosystem runs on came from our history — it's very exciting."