16 September 2016

The two sides of marbled crayfish

The International Association for Astacology meeting was recently held in Spain, and a nice press release about the two major lines of research on Marmorkrebs: as an unwanted invasive, and as a wanted model organism. I draw similar comparisons in my own chapter.

Between Google Translate and a little guesswork, I think the press release reads something like this:

  • This North American species is reshaping ecosystems by killing fish or molluscs on the one hand, and on the other hand, is used for studies related to cancer thanks to their particular genetics.
  • Researchers Pavel Kozák and Frank J. Lyko presented studies about this crustacean at the 21st International Symposium of Astacology.

The marble crayfish (Procamborus (sic) fallax) is a curious exotic species, as has been disclosed during the 21st International Symposium of Astacology, which takes place at the Royal Botanical CSIC Garden. Like the strange case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, it shows two sides: a positive, because thanks to their particular genetics, it is used for cancer-related studies; and the other less pleasant, because it is an invasive species that is ravaging different ecosystems.

Researchers Pavel Kozák from the Faculty of Fisheries and Protection of Waters of the University of South Bohemia in the Czech Republic, and Frank J. Lyko, from the Cancer Research Center of Heidelberg in Germany, are working on two projects related to marbled crayfish. They presented their studies on this species from the point of view of ecology and reproduction (Kozák) and genetics (Lyko).

According to the Czech researcher, his project initially focused on the impact of invasive species on native species of crayfish, but as the project continued, this deepened to include the interaction between this invasive species and their impact on other invasive species, such as amphibians or fish.

The researcher Kozák focuses on two significant events. “First, marbled crayfish are destroying fish, molluscs, and macroinvertebrates, and ultimately, it is reshaping the entire ecosystem. Second, this invasive species is more powerful than other larger species, thus refuting the claim that the larger species tend to be more aggressive.”

Meanwhile, the German researcher Frank J. Lyko notes that the genetics of marbled crayfish reproduction, i.e., the females create clones of themselves, “is a model species to implement our work on cancer, since there is only one genome to study, hence its importance for medical science.”

Devastating effects

However, Lyko coincides with his Czech colleague Kozák in the “devastating effects” of marbled crayfish, such as in Madagascar where they have destroyed almost all the habitat where they have been, before making the leap to other countries. The first crayfish in Europe were found in Germany in 1995, and by 2010, it was established in nature, especially Central Europe. In the short term, also has changed the habitat of this area.

The two researchers also agree that, given that its eradication is impossible, citizens of the areas where this species is found be educated to know how easily it reproduces and the consequences of their invasion. They also requested legislation regulating the introduction of new species and greater control of ornamental trade, both in physical stores and the sale online, because it is very easy to get this species for aquariums, and their reproduction is immediate and unlimited.

Finally, for Czech researcher Pavel Kozák, this highlighted the work of the Royal Botanic Garden-CSIC of Madrid, which conducts research related to crayfish plague and supports students doing projects on astacology.

When I went to the International Association of Astacology meeting in Missouri in 2010, I think I was one of the first to talk about Marmorkrebs at that venue. At least, several people told me it was news to them. It is nice to see more research at this preeminent crayfish meeting on Marmorkrebs, and making its way into the public.

External links

Cangrejo mármol, una curiosa especie invasora con dos caras (Roughly: Marbled crayfish, a curious invasive species with two faces)

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