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Feb 2016 - Alien Invaders (Marine Edition)

Aliens are amongst us! No, not from outer space, although some of them are as weird as anything dreamed up by Hollywood, but from seas other than the Mediterranean. It all started in 1869 with the opening of the Suez Canal which established a link between the eastern Mediterranean and the Red Sea that had not existed for at least 15 million years. This very soon brought an influx of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean in what was almost exclusively a one way process – a phenomenon called, rather inappropriately, ‘Lessepsian migration’.

The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1968 accelerated this invasion but the turning point came in the early 1980s when not only did the influx of Red Sea aliens increase but such species which had previously been mostly confined to the eastern Mediterranean started moving westwards at an unprecedented rate, and some crossed over from the eastern to the western basin. Concurrently, a new phenomenon became evident: the entry into the Mediterranean of warm-water Atlantic species into the western Mediterranean via the Strait of Gibraltar and their movement eastwards. Other newcomers that joined the fray were species introduced by human activities, chief amongst which is shipping, but also through other pathways.

Why did species cross from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean but not vice-versa? How did construction of the Aswan dam, which is nowhere near the Mediterranean, enhance this immigration? What happened in the 1980s to accelerate east to west and west to east movement of newcomer species? Why is this trend not only expected to continue, but probably to increase? And finally, should we be worried by this? These aspects will be discussed in the light of current understanding of these phenomena, so join us and find out!

Our facebook event can be found using the following link: http://bit.ly/MCSfeb16

Malta Café Scientifique can be found on Facebook: www.facebook.com/Malta.Cafe.Scientifique and online: http://bit.ly/MCSCIweb. You can now view events and subscribe to our mailing list from the website.

Thanks go to Sammy's by Culinary Forward Malta, St. James Cavalier for hosting this event, the University of Malta, and Malta Chamber of Scientists

Poster thanks to Mathias Dalli Gonzi