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Czech scientists document new crayfish species in Indonesian cave

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Prague, Jan 19 (CTK) – Czech scientists from the Czech University of Life Sciences and University of South Bohemia have found and documented a new crayfish species living in an Indonesian cave on New Guinea Island, the University of South Bohemia has said in its press release.

The species inhabits a subterranean river near the Palimoro village.

Cave crayfish have so far been only found in Northern America.

Scientists Martin Blaha, Jiri Patoka and Antonin Kouba described the crayfish in the Zootaxa journal last December.

“Their discovery saw a great acclaim from all over the world and it was labelled one of the most significant events in crayfish studies recently, which will be a source of important knowledge about the evolution processes,” the report says.

The yellow crayfish (Cherax acherontis) has features typical of animals living in cave systems, such as loss of pigmentation, atrophied eyes and a specific modification of the oral cavity, through which it adapts to food available in the caves.

Scientists learned about its existence already a few years ago and were hoping to be able to explore it in the Czech Republic at first, but due to the administratively complicated transport procedure they decided to travel to New Guinea instead.

“The communication with a guide using English and emails was not ideal and it was not until we were there that we found out what we were to deal with,” Blaha told CTK.

The scientists were expecting to find the crayfish in a regular cave and were surprised to learn it lived in a subterranean river flowing through an extensive cave system.

They had to walk several kilometres in water to reach the crayfish, but the result was worth it. They were able to confirm it was an entirely new species, evolutionarily close to the crayfish living in Australia and Indonesia.

Although through their live in the cave they acquired characteristics that resemble those of the cave crayfish found in Northern America, they belong to a completely different family.

“They are relatively large, the males grow up to 15-20 centimetres in length,” Blaha said.

The scientists would like to go back to Indonesia for further expeditions and have targeted another place where their guides said there were crayfish.

“Biodiversity in this part of the world is so enormous that I would be surprised to see there are no further crayfish,” he said.

The team also wants to focus on nonendemic species in Indonesia that reach the country alongside aquarium fish which are being traded via Indonesia.

“They often act invasively and irretrievably damage the unique local eco systems,” Blaha said.

The Czech scientists are planning to organise a cooperation with Indonesian universities in researching the nonendemic species in Indonesia.

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