In a new study by the Illinois Natural History Survey, researchers accidentally discovered that the virile crayfish species, faxonius virilis, crosses with native crayfish in the Current River, Missouri, leading to disturbances in the ecosystem. The study, published in the Journal of Aquatic Invasions, also mentioned that the species undergoes biological inversion that can lead to the extinction of native species.
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Christopher Taylor, a crustacean curator at the Illinois Natural History Survey and co-author of the study, found that the virile crustacean is one of the “most native crustaceans in North America.” Although native to North America, the virile species is considered invasive in most parts of the United States. It ultimately dominates other species in each area it is introduced.
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Taylor conducted the study with other researchers, including Professor Eric Larson from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois.
“The Ozarks in Missouri and Arkansas are just a great place to be a crayfish,” Larson said. “The streams are rocky so you can hide from fish animals, the water chemistry is good, there is plenty of calcium in the creek and there are many groundwater sources flowing into the main river. That is why there are so many native crayfish there. ”
The problem with crayfish interference is that the hybrid species displace the natives. This in turn reduces the production of native crayfish and reduces their reproduction. In addition, the hybrid species consume large amounts of aquatic plants and other invertebrates. As a result, crossbreeding ends up affecting the stocks of other small fish and species in the ecosystem.
“The spread and effects of an invasive species can cause significant damage to this unique ecosystem,” Larson said.
The researchers found that it was difficult to determine that the crayfish species interfered as their offspring did not have unique physical appearance. It was only through mitochondrial DNA sampling that the researchers identified traces of the unique DNA in each other.
“Initially, we found that some of the native spot-handed crayfish, faxonius punctimanus, had mitochondrial DNA sequences that were consistent with invasive virile crayfish,” said Zachary Rozansky, a graduate student leading the research. “We observed no differences in colors or patterns that indicated that they were hybrids. They looked like one thing or another. ”
Lead image via Unsplash