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Shedd’s ‘Gizzard Shad-nado’ video shows what’s lurking in lake

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Live from Chicago's lakeshore, it's "Gizzard Shad-nado"

Updated: December 30, 2013 12:06PM

Chicago, never a city to be outdone, has an answer to “Sharknado,” the low-budget made-for-TV movie that created a stir on social media when it debuted last summer.

The new short YouTube video, filmed by the Shedd Aquarium and dubbed “Gizzard Shad-nado,” may not be as sensational or campy as the anti-blockbuster, which features a tornado of sharks as the central plot device.

But it’s enlightening, showing what lurks in the waters just beyond the city shore.

As it turns out, there are fish — thousands of them — swirling around in Burnham Harbor.

And on one day last week, Shedd Aquarium researchers Solomon David and Phil Willink captured them on camera.

“It’s going on right below the surface and we don’t even see it,” said David, who has researched native Midwestern fish for more than a decade and professes an affinity for Gar, a fish that looks like a crocodile.

The video shows a whirling mass of gizzard shad, a type of herring that salmon and large mouth bass like to snack on, David said.

The researchers didn’t have to go far. They attached an underwater camera to a telescoping pole and lowered it into the harbor while standing on the shore.

The findings are at odds with a perception, held by some, that Lake Michigan is a reservoir of industrial pollution.

“It suggests maybe the habitat isn’t so bad,” David said. “You can see some trash floating around, but at the same time you can see fish spawning and guarding their young.”

In fact, in recent years fish across the lake have started returning to their natural spawning grounds — a development David partially credits to habitat restoration efforts and the passage of the Clean Water Act. Lake Michigan may not be pristine, but the signs are encouraging, he said.

“Fishes are good representation of overall ecosystem health,” David said. Referring to feeder fish such as the gizzard shad, he said: “It’s important to know what’s going on with the food of your food.”

As it turns out, “Gizzard Shad-nado” is a sequel of sorts. In July, David uploaded “Cat[fish]nado,” video of a grown catfish guarding a fast-moving “ball” of baby catfish.

But with a sense of propriety, David cautioned fans not to expect many more videos in the “Nado” series.

“We don’t want to make too many trashy sequels,” he said.


Twitter: @BrianSlodysko

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