Mutant clones of Georgia crawfish besiege planet

The answer to Europe's invasive crawfish problem? Bigger pots. (AJC FILE PHOTO)
The answer to Europe's invasive crawfish problem? Bigger pots. (AJC FILE PHOTO)

Credit: George Mathis

Credit: George Mathis

As a hobby, taking over the world isn't what it used to be.

After several experiments ending in disastrous wars, people, and major countries, pretty much quit trying.

Corporations picked up the torch, including a few very successful ones in Atlanta.

It's difficult to find a place on Earth that hasn't been conquered by Coca-Cola.

And though I rarely wear them, Spanx, the "slimming hosiery line" that made Atlantan Sara Blakely the world's youngest self-made female billionaire , has stretched across the globe.

Mother Nature is even more persistent than capitalism in its quest to expand.

According to a New York Times article , a mutant, all-female species of crayfish (hereafter referred to as crawfish because that's how we say it down here) is "taking over Europe."

How can a species be comprised only of females? These lobster-like creatures clone themselves faster than Tribbles on Star Trek.

It gets even more interesting.

As this column suggests, it's difficult to read something to the end sometimes, but I finished the article and learned the crawfish likely sprung from the slough crawfish, a species found only in tributaries of southeast Georgia's Satilla River. That's the river that flows into the Atlantic between Jekyll and Cumberland Islands.

The article says the Georgia ditch denizens were probably shipped to Europe as pets and one of them in an aquarium mutated into a new species -- the marbled crawfish -- that reproduces without males.

Soon, hobbyists who'd purchased one pet crawfish had hundreds and, around 1995, they started dumping them outdoors. It's colder in Europe than south Georgia, but the mutants thrived.

Now "feral populations" numbering in the millions exist in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Ukraine, Japan and Madagascar and threaten native species.

Cloning has advantages. If the mutation ever hits humans it will pretty much kill the Valentine's Day card industry. And dating. And marriage.

But, since every marbled crawfish is an exact genetic copy of the first one that sprung up 25 or so years ago, scientists say the new species could be wiped out by a single disease.

The marbled crawfish population is growing so fast humans may soon look into exploiting this genetic weakness.

In Madagascar, a large island off the east coast of Africa known for its unique animal inhabitants, the marbled crawfish spread at an "astonishing pace" to an area the size of Indiana in just 10 years.

In German lakes, they are easily captured by the hundreds.

If you Google "marbled crayfish" you will see a lot of alarming headlines, but none tell you you can eat them. I figure you can.  Some combination of boiling and Old Bay makes anything edible.

So take it from me, humanity has nothing to fear from something so small, and tasty.

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