711 words • 2~4 min read

Geese, snakeheads, and the ones that got away: Southern Fried Science Book Club, week 5

Fortunately, it turns out last week’s chapter was a fluke, and we come down the home stretch of Eating Aliens with some of the strongest sections since the beginning. Canadian Geese was particularly fascinating, as it’s clear this is the species Landers has the most experience talking about. Te chapter is rich with the details, backstory, and information that I was hoping to find throughout the book, with less cynicism about the role of local and national government than we’ve seen previous. If you haven’t caught up yet, I recommend just skipping Nutria and going straight to Canadian Geese.

Then we’re back in the water with numerous marine and freshwater invasives, many from the aquarium trade. Plecos and armored catfish, released by amateur aquarists, are booming in Florida’s warm, protected waters, while tilapia is a holdover from the aquaculture industry. Frankly, there wasn’t much new in these chapters, other than the species–at this point introduced fish are old news, and while the details of each animal are slightly different, the causes and consequences are often the same. Personally, I don’t think I’d eat a pleco, but it doesn’t sound particularly unpalatable. Even though the story is pretty much the same–Landers struggles to catch anything, hijinks ensues, they finally eat it–this was a fun part of the book.

Finally, we get the chapter I’ve been waiting for since lionfish, the second most notorious invasive in America, the Snakehead. Not surprisingly, snakeheads are not easy to catch, and though he tried many times, we never find out what they taste like. That part almost doesn’t matter, as Landers skillfully details his adventure through the Mid-Atlantic, searching our snakehead ponds, studying the fish, learning their behavior, and ultimately hooking and losing numerous animals. This should have been the hapless adventure chapter, not Nutria. Landers has both kind words to say about his local government field agents, and harsh things to say about overall regulations. Of all the chapters, this is the first to lay out a truly compelling argument against governmental management, rather than simply a genericĀ anti-establishment theme.

We finish off with a chapter on the ones that got away, in both cases because you can’t run around major urban centers firing shotguns into the air. It was a nice closing note.

So that’s it. Overall, Eating Aliens wasn’t nearly as deep as I had hoped, but it was certainly a fun summer read, with a bit to think about. A lot of these species are local to my own home in Virginia, so perhaps in the not-to-distant future we’ll be throwing out own invasive species barbecue.


Deep-sea biologist, population/conservation geneticist, backyard farm advocate. The deep sea is Earth's last great wilderness.


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