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Are Mermaids in Chicago's Future?

Josh Mogerman

Posted July 27, 2012 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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 Mermaid doing photo shoot by Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

Seen any mermaids in Lake Michigan? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration took the odd step of announcing that there is no such thing as the mythical half-fish, half-human creature that occupied so much of sailors' fantasy focus in the days of yore. It reads like a coverup that has us wondering what the Feds are hiding. A quick scan of the news suggests the truth is out there---and it is far different. Mermaids may not be far from our shores.

First there was this wacky story in New Scientist showing a controversial chemical used in plastics might be turning fish a bit more frisky and freaky:

“It's like beer goggles gone wrong. A common chemical used to make plastics also causes fish to indiscriminately court members of other species - behaviour that could result in interbreeding and the merger of two species.
Bisphenol A (BPA) affects animals' behaviour and development because it mimics the hormone oestrogen. Such "synthetic hormones" can affect the males of many species, sometimes "feminising" them and impairing their ability to produce offspring.

But according to Jessica Ward of the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul, the effects go much further than that. She exposed captive blacktail shiners (Cyprinella venusta) and red shiners (C. lutrensis) to BPA for 14 days, then compared their courtship behaviour to that of fish that had not encountered the chemical.”

While there are a lot of plastics floating around the Great Lakes, we aren’t worried about the fish in Lake Michigan putting the moves on just yet. After all, who is going to date a bass, walleye or perch? They are just too small and wimpy to offer much of a good time.

Bighead carp, on the other hand, are an aggressive species that can get to be over 100 pounds, which is way bigger than the typical Wicker Park hipster in tight jeans. And a sobering new study out this week from Canadian and American researchers says that it would not take much for Asian carp to thrive in the Great Lakes: ten boy carp + ten girl carp in Lake Michigan = a 50% chance of a breeding population of the invasive fish that would spread to all the Lakes. We don't like the odds...

And once they have our Lakes, how soon before they come for our women? Who can resist those big pouty lips and strong tails?

Connect the dots people. We always thought that mermaids were the stuff of kids' stories and Disney movies, but the feds clearly know the truth. Despite their announcement that "No evidence of aquatic humanoids has ever been found," the biologists at NOAA know that mermaids are clearly real---or will be very soon---and they are coming to Chicago. It is probably time to get ready for sloppy fish-human hybrids to clog up all the bars and trendy seafood restaurants in town. At least one of our major cultural institutions will welcome them with open arms:

2012_07_14_MermaidSheddPoster.jpg
Vintage Shedd Aquarium Postcard [The Postcard Dude] 

Mermaid doing photo shoot image by Frank Kovalchek via Flickr

I originally wrote this piece for The Chicagoist, where it appeared on July 15, 2012

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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