The small ostracod Ankylocythere sinuosa measures no more than half a millimetre in length and lives on other crayfish. And, Spanish scientists have discovered it for the first time in Europe. The finding suggests that it arrived along with the invader crayfish Procambarus clarkii some 30 years ago but it is still unknown whether it can invade other crustacean species or whether it benefits or damages the expansion of the already established red swamp crayfish.
The red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) originates from the USA and Mexico and has been present in the Iberian Peninsula since the 1970's. Its expansion is currently on the up. However, its 'invasion' is coupled with that of another species: the ostracod Ankylocythere sinuosa, which is also from North America and totally relies on the crayfish to survive. It has now been discovered in Europe but could have come at the same time as its host 30 years ago.
Published in the 'Hydrobiologia' journal, the study aimed to verify how the Ankylocythere sinuosa arrived on the European Continent. According to researchers, although it has taken more than three decades to discover, "it is certain that it arrived with Procambarus clarkii".
"Ankylocythere sinuosa is common and abundant wherever there is the red swamp crayfish in Europe", as explained to SINC by Francesc Mesquita Joanes, lead author of the study and researcher at the Department of Microbiology and Ecology of the University of Valencia.
This minute epibiont crustacean lives on top of its host meaning it cannot live without the crayfish. It lays its eggs on the crayfish and clings on while it develops. The majority of crayfish are infected and "adult specimens can have up to many hundreds of ostracods on them," reveals Mesquita.
Hundreds of tiny crabs on the back of a crayfish
Between 2003 and 2009, the team of researchers took 203 red swamp crayfish from 12 differ
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FECYT - Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology