18 December 2014

Celebrate diversity: speciation in the lab

One of the stock criticisms of evolution is that new species have never been seen to be created. There are plenty of examples, and one of the more recent was the creation of a new lizard species in the lab, back in 2011. I wrote a bit about about it before. At the time, it was not given a species name.

Now, a new paper by Cole and colleagues has come out on that species, and given it a new monicker, Aspidoscelis neavesi. This is a classic taxonomic paper, really, with lots of descriptions and diagnostic criteria and locations of type speciments. It is interesting in that it grapples with the question of how to deal with hybrid lineages in a taxonomic sense, which has also been a problem with Marmorkrebs.

Carl Zimmer reports on this, and talks a bit about the taxonomic puzzles:

Aspidoscelis neavesi also raises a special puzzle, Dr. Hillis noted, because it emerged over and over again. Dr. Baumann and his colleagues have now successfully produced fertile hybrids of Aspidoscelis inornata and Aspidoscelis exsanguis dozens of times from different parents. Since each lineage comes from different parents, they could arguably be considered separate species, not just a new one.


Cole CJ, Taylor HL, Baumann DP, Baumann P. 2014. Neaves' whiptail lizard: the first known tetraploid parthenogenetic tetrapod (Reptilia: Squamata: Teiidae). Breviora 539: 1-20. http://dx.doi.org/10.3099/MCZ17.1

External links

The Strange Tale of a New Species of Lizard
Related posts

Celebrate diversity: Instant whiptail!

04 December 2014

Keller and colleagues, 2014

Keller NS, Pfeiffer M, Roessink I, Schulz R, Schrimpf A. 2014. First evidence of crayfish plague agent in populations of the marbled crayfish (Procambarus fallax forma virginalis). Knowledge and Management of Aquatic Ecosystems 15: 8. http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/kmae/2014032


The introduction of non-indigenous species and associated diseases can cause declines in indigenous flora and fauna and threaten local biodiversity. The crayfish plague pathogen (Aphanomyces astaci), carried and transmitted by latent infected North American crayfish, can lead to high mortalities in indigenous European crayfish populations. Although the parthenogenetic marbled crayfish (Procambarus fallax (Hagen, 1870) forma virginalis) is common in the aquarium trade and has established wild populations in Europe, its carrier status is still unknown. This study investigated one captive and three established wild-living marbled crayfish populations for an infection with the crayfish plague pathogen applying real-time PCR. We demonstrate that captive, as well as two wild marbled crayfish populations were infected by A. astaci. Although infection status in laboratory kept specimens reached high levels, marbled crayfish showed no obviously plague-related mortality. Furthermore, sequence analysis revealed that captive crayfish carried the A. astaci genotype Pc, which has earlier been isolated from the North American red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). The results indicate that due to its positive carrier status marbled crayfish poses a greater threat to local biodiversity in Europe than considered until now.

Keywords: marbled crayfish • crayfish plague agent • exotic pathogen • invasive species • real-time PCR

02 December 2014

The colours, man, check out the colours...

These images I found on a Craigslist ad caught me attention as being a bit... brighter than most Marmorkrebs pictures I see.

I think there may be a little Instagram-style filtering going on...

19 November 2014

Patoka and colleagues, 2014

Patoka J, Kalous L, Kopecký O. 2014. Risk assessment of the crayfish pet trade based on data from the Czech Republic. Biological Invasions 16(12): 2489-2494. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10530-014-0682-5


The pet trade in freshwater crustaceans, including crayfish, has grown rapidly in recent decades and become an important pathway for introducing new non-indigenous species into Europe. This paper provides the first overview of non-indigenous crayfish species (NICS) traded as ornamental and their potential impact in the Czech Republic, which is the second leading importer into Europe. The paper presents a full list of traded crayfish species, their market availability, and trade names or misnomers used in the country. In total, 27 crayfish species from all three families are advertised and marketed, of which Astacus astacus is the only indigenous species. Only three NICS were recognized as very common on the market. The invasiveness and risk associated with ornamental crayfish trade were assessed using the Freshwater Invertebrate Invasiveness Scoring Kit. Five NICS were classified into the high-risk category, the highest score being for Procambarus fallax f. virginalis. The invasiveness of crayfish indigenous to North America is significantly greater than that of crayfish from the rest of the world, and therefore regulation in this regard is recommended.

Keywords: Ornamental animal • Invasiveness • FI-ISK • Aquarium • Trade names

Chucholl, 2014

Chucholl C. 2014. Predicting the risk of introduction and establishment of an exotic aquarium animal in Europe: insights from one decade of Marmorkrebs (Crustacea, Astacida, Cambaridae) releases. Management of Biological Invasions 5(4): 309-318. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/mbi.2014.5.4.01


The presence of the North American Marmorkrebs (Procambarus fallax f. virginalis) in European inland waters is entirely driven by ongoing propagule pressure from the ornamental trade. Since 2003 at least 25 independent introduction events have been confirmed, of which some have eventually resulted in established populations. This study links a maximum-entropy model that forecasts the probability of Marmorkrebs introduction based on socio-economic predictors to an updated species distribution model based on environmental predictors in order to explore the risk of further Marmorkrebs establishment in Europe. In line with related research, the probability of Marmorkrebs release was largely affected by gross domestic product and human population density, i.e. predictors very likely related to the density of Marmorkrebs owners, whereas environmental suitability was mostly influenced by minimum temperature and the availability of lentic habitats, which was indirectly assessed by terrain slope. While considerable parts of Europe were predicted as potentially suitable for establishment, high probabilities of introduction were forecasted in much smaller geographic areas. The consensus map of the model predictions suggests that introduction and subsequent establishment of Marmorkrebs is likely to occur in much of Germany, the Benelux countries, England, Italy, and areas of high human population density throughout France and Spain, as well as parts of southernmost Scandinavia and Southeastern Europe. Monitoring trades of Marmorkrebs in these high-risk regions is recommended and implications for proactive measures are discussed, including the need for consistent trade regulations at the EU level.

Keywords: marbled crayfish • propagule pressure • risk assessment • ornamental trade • introduction pathway

Celebrate diversity: Winning evolution without sex

Quanta magazine has a nice feature article on rotifers, which are apparently some of the longest running asexual lineages that we know about. Or maybe they’re not asexual... maybe it’s sex, Jim, but not as we know it:

The new work has shown bdelloids to be so good at generating genetic diversity that some researchers now question the very definition of sex, with some arguing for a more expansive one that doesn’t require the orchestrated swapping of genetic material. Others think that even if the traditional definition of sex remains intact, the unique genetic strategies of the bdelloid rotifer will illuminate the mechanisms that make sex such a successful evolutionary strategy.

11 November 2014

Vojkovská and colleagues, 2014

Vojkovská R, Horká I, Tricarico E, Duriš Z. 2014. New record of the parthenogenetic marbled crayfish Procambarus fallax f. virginalis from Italy. Crustaceana 87(11-12): 1386-1392. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/15685403-00003365


To date, the ‘marbled crayfish’, Procambarus fallax (Hagen, 1870) f. virginalis, in Italy has been reported only from Tuscany (central Italy). Recently, specimens of this alien American crayfish were found in the Po di Maistra Channel, Porto Tolle, south of Venice (northern Italy). The identification of this species was confirmed by its external morphology and colour pattern, as well as by molecular analysis. The present report provides the second record for the marbled crayfish in Italy.

Keywords: None provided.