Castaway critters rafted to U.S. shores aboard Japan tsunami debris | Science News

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Castaway critters rafted to U.S. shores aboard Japan tsunami debris

Close to 300 living marine species traveled on debris from the 2011 tsunami

3:19pm, September 28, 2017
gooseneck barnacles on a boat

STOWAWAYS  Pelagic gooseneck barnacles cling to a boat that got washed out to sea after the 2011 tsunami in Japan and floated to the U.S. coast. A new study catalogs hundreds of species that have made this ocean crossing.

The 2011 tsunami that devastated Japan’s coast cast an enormous amount of debris out to sea — way out. Japanese marine life took advantage of the new floating real estate and booked a one-way trip to America. From 2012 to 2017, at least 289 living Japanese marine species washed up on the shores of North America and Hawaii, hitching rides on fishing boats, docks, buoys, crates and other nonbiodegradable objects, a team of U.S. researchers report in the Sept. 29 Science.

Organisms that surprisingly survived the harsh 7,000-kilometer journey across the Pacific Ocean on 634 items of tsunami debris ranged from 52-centimeter-long fish (a Western Pacific yellowtail amberjack) to microscopic single-celled protists. About 65 percent of the species have never been seen in North America’s Pacific waters. If these newcomers become established, they have the potential to become invasive,

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