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The new threat to Italian inland waters from the alien crayfish “gang”: the Australian Cherax destructor Clark, 1936

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Biological invasions inflict damage to the ecology, economy, and human health, and pose serious threats to the native communities. Among the many invasive taxa, crayfish have attracted much attention by scientists and policy makers. Recently, an established population of an alien species of crayfish, new for Italy, was found in the Natural Preserve of “Laghi di Ninfa” (central Italy). Based on morphological and genetic evidence (molecular barcoding of COI and 16S rDNA), we classified it at subspecies level as the Parastacidae Cherax destructor destructor, native to Australia. Its introduction possibly occurred at the end of the 1980s but the species seems to be still confined in the preserve. The low temperature of the adjacent waters may be a barrier against its natural spreading but not against its intentional translocation into natural waters by man. Because of the invasive history of C. destructor, eradication of this population is urgent and still economically profitable.

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We are indebted to Dr. Andrea Monaco (ARP, Lazio), Dr Lauro Marchetti, and the staff of the “Caetani” Association for the logistic support during the study within the Natural Monument of “Laghi di Ninfa.” The work by F. G. has been conducted within the PASAL project (financed by A.R.P., Lazio). The academic Spin off “Gen-Tech” of the University of Parma also contributed to the research.

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Correspondence to Francesco Nonnis Marzano.

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Handling editor: Pierluigi Viaroli

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Cherax destructor destructor, in the Natural Preserve “Laghi di Ninfa” (A) and at the entrance of a burrow (B). (PDF 86 kb)


The study area in the Preserve “Laghi di Ninfa” (A); one of five abandoned cultivation pond inhabited by Cherax destructor destructor (B). (PDF 73 kb)

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Scalici, M., Chiesa, S., Gherardi, F. et al. The new threat to Italian inland waters from the alien crayfish “gang”: the Australian Cherax destructor Clark, 1936. Hydrobiologia 632, 341–345 (2009).

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