Freshwater crayfish have important ecological roles and are widely used as a human food source, however, many species face threats to their existence. For example, two species of marron are endemic to the southwest of Western Australia, with hairy marron (Cherax tenuimanus) found only in the Margaret River and smooth marron (Cherax cainii) widespread throughout the southwest. Smooth marron are widely used in aquaculture, and have been introduced to the Margaret River where they are replacing the hairy marron, possibly through competition and hybridisation, to the point where hairy marron are listed as Critically Endangered. As part of conservation efforts the Department of Fisheries have a captive breeding program of hairy marron, however, the breeding success is low.
Currently captive breeding, including aquaculture of crayfish relies upon traditional methods of investigating the impacts of environmental factors, with little understanding of the physiological state of animals. This project will develop a non-lethal and low-stress method to identify and assess the levels of a reproductive hormone (methyl farnesoate (MF)) in a laboratory-based breeding trial. An assay for MF will be developed as a tool for investigating the impact of environmental factors on reproductive success and stress in the hairy marron. Initially it is hoped this assay will benefit the conservation of the hairy marron, but also improve aquaculture of smooth marron, with potential application to both conservation and aquaculture of freshwater crayfish globally.
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