Brief Communication

Ecology: Parthenogenesis in an outsider crayfish



It has been rumoured1 that an unidentified decapod crustacean, a crayfish of marbled appearance and of uncertain geographical origin that was introduced into the German aquarium trade in the mid-1990s, is capable of unisexual reproduction (parthenogenesis). Here we confirm that this marbled crayfish ('Marmorkrebs') is parthenogenetic under laboratory conditions and use morphological and molecular analysis to show that it belongs to the American Cambaridae family. Although parthenogenesis is widespread among the Crustacea2, and shrimp, lobsters, crayfish and crabs are otherwise versatile in their modes of reproduction3,4,5, it has not been reported before in decapods, the largest and economically most important crustacean group. By virtue of its parthenogenetic reproduction, the marbled crayfish emerges not only as an interesting laboratory model but also as a potential ecological threat in that it could outcompete native forms should even a single specimen be released into European lakes and rivers.

  • Subscribe to Nature for full access:



Additional access options:

Already a subscriber?  Log in  now or  Register  for online access.


  1. 1.

    Aquaristik Aktuell 7–8, 48–51 (2001).

  2. 2.

    in Lehrbuch der Speziellen Zoologie, Band I, 4. Teil: Arthropoda (ed. Gruner, H.-E) 448–1030 (Fischer, Jena, Germany, 1993).

  3. 3.

    & Mar. Biol. 132, 223–235 (1998).

  4. 4.

    Nature 381, 512–514 (1996).

  5. 5.

    in The Biology of Freshwater Crayfish (ed. Holdich, D. M.) 152–191 (Blackwell Science, Oxford, 2002).

  6. 6.

    in The Biology of Freshwater Crayfish (ed. Holdich, D. M.) 30–52 (Blackwell Science, Oxford, 2002).

  7. 7.

    in The Biology of Freshwater Crayfish (ed. Holdich, D. M.) 53–151 (Blackwell Science, Oxford, 2002).

  8. 8.

    Annu. Rev. Ecol. Syst. 25, 71–96 (1994).

  9. 9.

    , & Transgenic Res. 9, 463–469 (2000).

  10. 10.

    & Freshwat. Crayfish 12, 11–35 (1999).

Download references

Author information


  1. *Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Institut für Biologie/Vergleichende Zoologie, 10115 Berlin, Germany

    • Gerhard Scholtz
    • , Anke Braband
    • , André Reimann
    •  & Beate Mittmann
  2. †Universität Heidelberg, Institut für Zoologie, INF 230, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany

    • Laura Tolley
    • , Frank Steuerwald
    •  & Günter Vogt
  3. ‡Gotenstrasse 16, 1336 Bittenfeld, Germany

    • Chris Lukhaup


  1. Search for Gerhard Scholtz in:

  2. Search for Anke Braband in:

  3. Search for Laura Tolley in:

  4. Search for André Reimann in:

  5. Search for Beate Mittmann in:

  6. Search for Chris Lukhaup in:

  7. Search for Frank Steuerwald in:

  8. Search for Günter Vogt in:

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gerhard Scholtz.


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.