Investigation of the ﬁrst recent crayﬁsh plague outbreak in Ireland and its subsequent spread in the Bruskey River and surrounding areas
Graham, Conor T.
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White-clawed crayﬁsh (Austropotamobius pallipes) is a keystone species found in western European freshwater bodies, where it has suffered drastic declines due to pathogens, competition with nonindigenous crayﬁsh species (NICS) and habitat deterioration. In Ireland, populations of (naturalised) A. pallipes have been considered healthy and abundant mainly because no diseases or NICS have been reported in the past decades. The present study investigated a sudden mass mortality event that occurred in the Erne catchment in 2015. Molecular analysis conﬁrmed that the cause of the event was infection by the oomycete Aphanomyces astaci (the causative agent of the crayﬁsh plague). While in 2015 the spread of the pathogen appeared to remain conﬁned to the outbreak’s epicentre and nearby upstream waters, follow up surveys using conventional methods and environmental DNA (eDNA) approaches indicated that by a year later (2016), the pathogen was still present and had spread downstream beyond Lough Gowna. No NICS were detected during the surveys conducted. This crayﬁsh plague outbreak is of grave concern to Irish whiteclawed crayﬁsh and associated ecosystems.
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