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The Northern snakehead (Channa argus) is a freshwater, air-breathing fish from the snakehead family (Channidae), native to China, Russia, North Korea and South Korea. It grows to about 1 meter long and 7 kg, and is a voracious top predator, feeding in schools mostly on fish but also aquatic and land invertebrates and amphibians. Northern snakeheads live preferentially in slow-running streams or stagnant ponds and swamps with muddy bottoms and aquatic vegetation. In many areas of the world, Channa is considered a desirable food fish and C. argus has been introduced (intentionally or not) to non-native areas in Asia, Russia, the Middle East, Japan, Europe, and several areas in the continental United States. In the United States, this hardy fish is considered to be a highly invasive species and a significant threat to native fish, especially as it can live out of water for up to four days, is tolerant to freezing, highly fecund and can wriggle itself across land so has great potential to spread. Established populations were first found in Crofton, Maryland in 2002. The (successful) eradication of about 100 individuals was highly publicized and fictionalized in two horror movies, Snakehead Terror and Frankenfish. Established populations are known in the Potomac river basin and in Arkansas. Since 2002 possession of Northern snakehead has been banned in 14 states and all species of snakehead (Channidae) were added to the federal register of injurious wildlife species; the US Fish and Wildlife Service prohibits importation of this species into the US and their inter-state transportation.

(Courtenay 2009; USDA National Agricultural Library, 2011; USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center 2011; Wikipedia 16 February 2012; February 22, 2012 ; 18 February 2012)


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