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Localized invasion of the North American Harris mud crab, Rhithropanopeus harrisii, in the Panama Canal: implications for eradication and spread

Roche, Dominique G., Torchin, Mark E., Leung, Brian, Binning, Sandra A.
Biological invasions 2009 v.11 no.4 pp. 983-993
Decapoda, crabs, introduced species, invasive species, ecological invasion, salinity, salt tolerance, population distribution, geographical distribution, shipping, pest control, North America, Panama Canal Zone
As the rate of biological invasions continues to increase, a growing number of aquatic introduced species are becoming globally widespread. Despite this ubiquitous phenomenon, rarely do we discover aquatic invaders early enough to allow the possibility of eradication. Recently, the North American Harris mud crab (Rhithropanopeus harrisii) was found in the waters adjacent to the Panama Canal and herein we provide an assessment of the crab's distribution in Panama to evaluate the possibility of eradication. Using salinity tolerance experiments, we also evaluate the potential for further spread of this crab within the Canal. Our results suggest that populations of R. harrisii are currently limited to two manmade lagoons which are adjacent to the Panama Canal. Our experiments suggest that both juvenile and adult R. harrisii can survive in salinities found outside its current range in Panama. Although it is difficult to predict the potential for future spread and impacts in Panama, current management strategies could reduce the probability for spread locally as well as elsewhere in the world given the intensity of shipping in this region. The current containment of this invader suggests that a localized eradication may be possible.