Nature is quite an incredible thing. But sometimes it gets a little assistance from humankind. And in an experimental breeding program in Belgium, things have gotten interesting – some might even say like something straight out of a horror film. There is a group of sea-cloning mutant crayfish who are taking over a cemetery.
The crayfish are apparently multiplying in the hundreds. So far, the crayfish have taken over the historic Schoonselhof cemetery located in Antwerp. The invasion has been so great, that it has ended up creating a disastrous threat to the local ecosystem.
The Schoonselhof cemetery is called the city’s Pere Lachaise. It is famous for having some very famous people interred there such as John Rankin Rathbone, who was a British MP that was killed in action back in 1940. There are also 1,577 British soldiers who died during the Second World War who were also laid to rest there as well.
But now the very notable residents in the cemetery are all female, marbled crayfish. They are a breed of crayfish who do not naturally occur in the wild but instead are rumored to have been created in Germany during the 1990s.
Kevin Scheers, from the Flemish Institute for Nature and Woodland Research, shared with Brussels Times that it’s very difficult to collect all the crayfish. Their large numbers are reflective of “trying to empty the ocean with a thimble,” as Scheers so eloquently put it.
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Scheers explained to the The Brussels Times that the infestation occurring in the cemetery’s canal was most likely due to some person who had the crayfish in their aquarium and then released them into the water without thinking about the consequences. As he further added, this happens when people get sick of caring for pets and then don’t want to follow through with proper care for them.
The crayfish mutation was around 25 years ago, and this new trait has allowed them to reproduce without the help of a partner. Since this mutation, scientists have noted that there have been entire populations that are formed just from one single crayfish. These particular crayfish species have been banned since 2014 in the European Union because of their very destructive nature – they will literally consume anything in their path. The unfortunate part of trying to trace the ownership of these crustaceans is their genetics are all the same.
The origin of these crayfish is Florida. But they’re parthenogenetic, meaning that they don’t need help reproducing themselves. As a result, all their offspring are automatically female. The crayfish are quite destructive despite their smaller size of being roughly 4-inches long.
Even though these crayfish go all the way back to the 1990s, it wasn’t until 2018 that scientists made the connection to all the marbled crayfish populations in the world were able to be traced back to one solitary female. And in the last few years, their populations have really exploded across both Africa and Europe.
These creatures can traverse both land and water during the nighttime, which makes it easy for them to invade canals as well as personal pools. Bet the scientists who created these crayfish are really starting to feel like the scientists in Jurassic Park.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.