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STRI identifies invasive crab in Panama Canal expansion area

September 24, 2007

STRI identifies invasive crab in Panama Canal expansion area

The crab population is reproducing in one of the 1939 man-made lakes now designated to build the watersaving basins by the Panama Canal expansion project

STRI's Mark Torchin and Dominique Roche, a predoctoral student from McGill University report that a potentially harmful, invasive crab species that has spread to several countries is now established and reproducing in Panama, in an article published in the September issue of Aquatic Invasions. The crab population is reproducing in one of the 1939 man-made lakes now designated to build the watersaving basins by the Panama Canal expansion project. When it is time to drain these small lakes, rescue and research will be done by the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

The Harris mud crab, Rhithropanopeus harrisii, native to estuarine environments along the East coast of North America, has spread to at least 21 countries, causing varying degrees of both environmental and economic damage. This mud crab has the potential to disrupt local ecosystems, invade inland freshwater lakes and harbor crustacean diseases. It also fouls pipes and preys upon fish in gill nets.

Torchin and Roche first discovered R. harrisii on the shoreline of the Miraflores Third Lock Lake in February. In March, they collected males, egg-bearing females and juveniles. While individual Harris mud crabs were reported from Panama in 1939, this is the first report of an established and reproducing population in the country.

This study is part of a major ongoing project by Torchin and the Smithsonian Marine Science Network to document the movement of invasive species as a result of the significant expansion of world marine trade. ACP supports STRI efforts.

Taken from EurekAlert!

Photo: Arthur Anker

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