Smithsonian identifies invasive crab species in Panama Canal expansion area

Sep 19, 2007
Rhithropanopeus harrisii
Harris mud crab. Credit: Arthur Anker

A Smithsonian scientist and colleague report that a potentially harmful, invasive crab species that has spread to several countries is now established and reproducing in Panama. The researchers report that Harris mud crabs are reproducing in the small, man-made lake designated to become the third set of locks in Panama’s new $5 billion canal expansion project.

Mark Torchin, a staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and Dominique Roche, a McGill University pre-doctoral student, report their research in the September issue of Aquatic Invasions.

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 1969, this is the first report of an established and reproducing population in the country.

The Miraflores Third Lock Lake was created in the early 1940s, during an aborted project to further expand the canal. The new canal expansion project, formally inaugurated Sept. 3, will reconnect this lake to the waterway.

Additional surveys will determine whether the crab is ubiquitous in the canal waters and if it is established at other sites. Genetic analysis will reveal the origin of this population and will determine if all populations in the canal are related or whether they result from independent introductions. The Panama Canal Authority supports STRI’s survey efforts.

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.

Source: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Explore further: Genetic basis of color diversity in coral reefs discovered

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Pinholes are pitfalls for high performance solar cells

7 minutes ago

The most popular next-generation solar cells under development may have a problem – the top layer is full of tiny pinholes, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University ...

Running fuel cells on bacteria

17 minutes ago

Researchers in Norway have succeeded in getting bacteria to power a fuel cell. The "fuel" used is wastewater, and the products of the process are purified water droplets and electricity.

How to raise tasty cannibal crabs

24 minutes ago

Do you like eating crabs? In Jakarta, enjoying the tasty crustaceans has become a hot trend, as more restaurants with names like The Holy Crab and Cut the Crab open up. Crabs are delicious delicacies, great ...

Hispanic immigrants spank children less

27 minutes ago

Immigrant Hispanic parents spank their young children less often than U.S.-born Hispanic parents, a new University of Michigan study found.

Virtual models to make cities greener

27 minutes ago

Making a city or district energy smart is, first and foremost, an exercise in good planning. However, such green planning tools are still in their infancy. The trouble is that every city is different, every ...

Recommended for you

How to raise tasty cannibal crabs

24 minutes ago

Do you like eating crabs? In Jakarta, enjoying the tasty crustaceans has become a hot trend, as more restaurants with names like The Holy Crab and Cut the Crab open up. Crabs are delicious delicacies, great ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.