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The perfect invader: a parthenogenic crayfish poses a new threat to Madagascar’s freshwater biodiversity

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In 2007 an unusual crayfish found in food markets in the capital of Madagascar was preliminarily identified as Procambarus ‘Marmorkrebs’: a new world taxa and the only decapod known to reproduce by parthenogenesis. We present information on the identity, distribution and ecology of this recent invader and attempt to evaluate the threat it poses to Madagascar’s biodiversity and to livelihoods. The species appears to be currently limited to the area close to Antananarivo, but is being sold alive on major transport routes. We present molecular evidence of its taxonomic relationships and confirm that the Procambarus present in Madagascar is indeed the parthenogenic taxa. We investigate its reproductive ecology and find Procambarus ‘Marmorkrebs’ to have an extremely high fecundity; more than six times that of the native crayfish Astacoides. The limited evidence we have suggests that this species poses a serious threat to freshwater biodiversity and that it is likely to damage human livelihoods (through its impact on fishing and possibly rice agriculture). More research is urgently needed but in the meantime action is needed to reduce the rate of spread before it is too late.

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Thanks to K. Crandall, R. Jenkins, Aidan Keane, A. Ratsimbazafy, students in the Department of Animal Biology, University of Antananarivo, The Leverhulm Trust and Conservation International Madagascar.

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Correspondence to Julia P. G. Jones.

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Jones, J.P.G., Rasamy, J.R., Harvey, A. et al. The perfect invader: a parthenogenic crayfish poses a new threat to Madagascar’s freshwater biodiversity. Biol Invasions 11, 1475–1482 (2009).

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