Native British crayfish facing extinction following mysterious outbreak of plague
The UK’s endangered native crayfish species could be completely wiped out after a deadly plague was identified in one of its few strongholds.
Around 40 per cent of Britain’s remaining 20,000-strong white-clawed crayfish population is expected to die within a year after the government confirmed the existence of crayfish plague in the River Allen in Dorset.
All 8,000 of the river’s white-clawed crayfish are forecast to perish at the hands of the plague, a fungal disease carried by the larger Signal Crayfish from America, which is immune to it. Matt Shardlow, head of the Buglife insect charity, said: “Generally there’s no coming back once the plague arrives and I think it means we’re looking at the imminent end of the species across the south west,” adding that there is a real danger it could eventually spread across the whole country.
“It’s particularly worrying that they don’t seem to have found any American crayfish in the river, just the plague, which suggests it was spread by anglers or someone else paddling around,” he added.
The UK’s largest invertebrate outside the sea occupies a special place in the nation’s heart, for example in old woodcut prints, he said.
Amanda Broom, Dorset Wildlife Trust Conservation Officer, said: “It is very sad that White Clawed Crayfish have been infected with the crayfish plague as this was one of just three populations remaining in Dorset.”
The white-clawed crayfish is the UK’s only native crayfish species. Other populations exist in the UK in areas such as the Midlands and East Anglia, but numbers are sparse and traditional strongholds in the Peak District and Ribble river in the North West have been almost wiped out. The species is on the endangered list.
The spread of the disease to the River Allen will accelerate the decline of the species, which is already estimated to have tumbled by 95 per cent since its peak. Once the disease infects crayfish, they are typically killed within weeks.Signal crayfish were brought to the UK in the 1970s, with many escaping into waterways through canals and some released into water courses because they can be fished for their tails. Their damage has been intensified by the ease with which they spread through waterways.
As well as spreading the plague – known as Aphanomyes astaci – they are able to outcompete the natives for food supplies such as flies, fish and fish eggs because they are much bigger.
The red-brown species, which look similar to small lobsters, also damage riverbanks when they dig the deep borrows they use to hibernate in the winter.
'Mini ice age' coming in next fifteen years, new model of the sun's cycle shows
Critically endangered species
African wildcat caught on camera riding on the back of rhino in rare footage
Pesticide experts silenced by UK Government as it looks to bring back bee-killing neonicotinoids
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
- 1 Cecil the lion: Dentist Walter Palmer blames local guides in Zimbabwe for the scandal
- 2 Kate Winslet thanked 'particularly horrible' girl who bullied her at school after Titanic success
- 3 Norwich paedophile ring: Woman at centre of gang who made children 'sexual play things' guilty of 23 offences
- 4 Black and ethnic minority people twice as likely to be hit by Tory cuts than white people, report finds
- 5 Walter Palmer: Cecil the lion killer revealed to be American dentist
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn says 'we can learn a great deal from Karl Marx'
The last thing Labour needs is a leader like Jeremy Corbyn who people want to vote for
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn – or a return to a Labour government
I am the Jeremy Corbyn supporter that many will tell you doesn't exist
Public anger after French sunbather beaten up by gang for wearing a bikini in Reims park
Labour leadership: New poll shows party is now even 'less electable' than under Ed Miliband
£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting startup disruptin...
£25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...
£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This London based publishing co...
£13500 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Previous experience is benefici...