Invasive Carp Species Section

Science Center Objects

Bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and the closely related silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) (together, the bigheaded carps) and black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) are rapidly expanding in numbers and distribution in the Mississippi and Missouri River basins. 

The Issue: Like the paddlefish (Polyodon spathula) and bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellis), which are native to the Missouri River, bigheaded carps are primarily filter feeders.  They are capable of filtering particles of a much smaller size from the water than native filter feeders, and therefore may have the capability to out compete native fishes in the filter-feeding niche. They are also known to impact water quality through their feeding, and may feed on early life stages of native fishes. 

Black carp are thought to be primarily, possibly even obligatory, molluscivores, though no thorough diet analysis has been performed on wild fish.  It is known that with their extremely robust pharyngeal teeth and the very large maximum sizes of individuals (sometimes exceeding 50 kg) they are capable of consuming even very large and hard mussels.  North America has the most diverse mussel assemblage in the world, but most of those species are threatened or endangered.  The black carp is considered to pose an extreme threat to endangered mussels.

A fourth Asian carp, the grass carp, has been present in the Mississippi River Basin since the 1970s.  While it has not been considered to pose as high of a threat as the other Asian carps, grass carp can cause changes in vegetation assemblages or in some cases completely remove vegetation.  Northern states along the Mississippi River, where large rivers are not already mostly naturally devoid of vegetation, are most concerned about an increase in the range and abundance of grass carp, and grass carp is considered to be a potential nuisance organism in reservoirs.

Addressing the Issue: CERC scientists combine a variety of techniques, including telemetry, larval fish collection with tows and light traps, electrofishing, netting, acoustic video, environmental DNA collection, stable isotopes in muscle, and stable isotopes and microchemistry of otoliths, and laboratory and pond studies of a variety of types. The Invasive species project's primary goals are:

  • Early Detection & Rapid Response - identify and report new invasions and assess risks to natural areas and waters;
  • Monitoring - Assess changes in populations and distributions of established invaders;
  • Control - Provide approaches to contain, reduce, and eliminate populations of invasive species and restore habitats and native species.
Embryonic grass carp

Embryonic grass carp

(Public domain.)



Early Life History of Bighead, Silver, Black, and Grass Carps

Principal Investigators - Duane Chapman and Amy George 









Black carp

USGS scientist holding a black carp.

(Public domain.)



Black Carp Biology, Status, and Selective Toxic Bait Development 

Principal Investigators - Duane Chapman and Patrick Kroboth








Bigheaded Carp Sampling and Mass Removal Techniques

Principal Investigators - Duane Chapman, Josey Ridgway, Andrew Mueller, and Matthew Acre 

Presenting Bigheaded Carp Sampling and Mass Removal Techniques

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