Scientists confirm that marbled crayfish are capable of self-replication, or parthenogenesis


In 1995, an astonished German aquarium owner noticed that a group of all-female “Texas crayfish” he’d bought from an American pet trader were seemingly self-replicating and were continuing to replicate.

Scientists confirmed his hunch by 2003 and labeled the creatures marbled crayfish. Then they discovered the crayfish cloning themselves in the wild, and in many countries, from Germany to Japan to Madagascar.

Now, for the first time, scientists have fully sequenced the DNA of 11 marbled crayfish from various environments and confirmed that they’re all capable of growing copies of themselves without fertilization – a process rarely observed in nature known as parthenogenesis.

Every marbled crayfish, now an invasive species around the world, descended from a single crayfish that somehow acquired or evolved the ability to reproduce on its own.

Study results were published on Monday in the journal Nature.

Photo credit: Ranja Andriantsoa

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