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Chinese expedition traces source of global fish invasion

Bournemouth University (BU) Professor Rudy Gozlan is leading an Anglo-Chinese expedition through remote parts of China in the weeks ahead to discover the origins of a global fish invasion.

Together with colleagues from BU and the Chinese Academy of Science, Professor Gozlan will travel over 10,000 kilometres along two major rivers – the Huang He (Yellow) and Chang Jiang (Yangtze) – to collect samples of a species of Topmouth gudgeon.

Professor Gozlan, of the University’s Centre for Conservation Ecology and Environmental Change, is producing a blog of his journey which can be followed at

The expedition represents a scientific, cultural and historical journey as Professor Gozlan traces the historic movement of the gudgeon from its native East China to become one of the world’s most prolific invasive species with populations extending as far as Europe and North Africa.

Recently, Professor Gozlan has identified that populations of the Topmouth gudgeon outside of China are healthy carriers of a deadly non-species specific parasite (Sphaerothecum destruens). These parasite-carrying gudgeons pose a threat to fish diversity, particularly in Europe where invaluable salmon stocks important to Britain’s aquaculture industry are at risk.

“This is the story of an innocent movement of fish from the East coast to the West part of China which has rippled all the way to Britain some 50 years later,” said Professor Gozlan. “The Topmouth gudgeon is small in size (maximum length circa 9cm), highly fecund with batch spawning and nest guarding behaviour and highly tolerant to environmental changes giving it all of the attributes of a successful invader.”

The Topmouth gudgeon’s first introduction outside of China was in reservoirs and ponds around the Black Sea as part of a fish farming agreement between China and the former Eastern block. Following long distances and hitchhiking cross country with movements of carp, it rapidly escaped and colonised local waters, dominating communities in ponds and lakes.

“The gudgeon’s stealth invasion of the world started in the 1950’s with the end of the Chinese civil war (from around 1840 to 1949) which had restricted human population mobility and trade,” said Professor Gozlan. “At that time, there was an increasing need for developing new sources of animal protein and black carp, grass carp, silver carp and big head carp were rapidly introduced from East China especially from the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River basin to many other places including Yunnan, Qinghai, Gansu and Xinjiang.

"This species had been cultured traditionally in East China for a long time with specific culturing techniques,” he continued. “These carp introductions for aquaculture, however, have been the beachhead of topmouth gudgeon’s great escape.”

During the expedition, Professor Gozlan is gathering material including live samples of Topmouth gudgeon from 33 locations covering nine major catchments. The samples will be compared to material collected from populations established from the first introduction in each country within the non-native range.

Populations will be compared for their life history traits and parasitic communities as well as their population genetic structure within native range but also across the introduced range.

Professor Rudy Gozlan’s Academic Profile -


Charles Elder | Bournemouth University (BU)
Further information:

Further reports about: Chang Chinese herbs Gozlan Yangtze River environmental change

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