Clawed blue creature found in pet aquariums worldwide turns out to be new species


Far from its home in Indonesia, a blue, clawed creature moved around an aquarium. Scientists peered into the tank, studying their pet-turned-specimen — and discovered a new species.
Researchers in Czechia acquired several freshwater crayfish from a pet trader specializing in “ornamental aquatic animals,” according to a study published Aug. 10 in the journal Zootaxa. Crayfish are also known as crawfish or crawdads.
Freshwater crayfish are “popular ornamental animals” in the pet trade, researchers said. Several different species are all sold under the common name of “blue moon crayfish.” These species are collected in Indonesia, then exported to Europe, North America and Japan to fill aquariums worldwide.
Over a span of eight years, researchers found five distinct blue crayfish — and discovered a new species: Cherax woworae, or the steel blue crayfish, the study said.
The steel blue crayfish is “moderately-sized,” reaching about 2 inches in length and just under an inch in width, researchers said. It has two equal-sized and multi-colored claws. Its body has a “steel blue” color with “marbled sides.”
Photos show the crayfish. It has dark blue legs and an orange-tipped tail. From arm to tip, its claws change from turquoise blue to peachy orange to black.
A Cherax woworae, or steel blue crayfish, sitting on fabric.
The new species was named Cherax woworae after Daisy Wowor, a crustacean scientist and curator at the Museum Zoologicum Bogoriense in Java, Indonesia, the study said.
Steel blue crayfish are known to burrow and are native to the western coast of New Guinea, the Indonesian side of the island, the study said. The species has also been found in “thermal waters” in Hungary. The Hungarian population was “probably released by irresponsible hobbyists and originate from the pet trade.”
Researchers recommended field surveys to determine the full distribution of the new species.
The new species was identified based on its coloring and body shape, the study said. DNA analysis found the species had between 5.6% and 13.8% genetic divergence from other freshwater crayfish.
The research team included Jiří Patoka, Surya Gentha Akmal, Martin Bláha and Antonín Kouba.
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