GLENELG SPINY CRAYFISH

Condition Monitoring And Genetics Assessment Of Glenelg Spiny Crayfish

Monitoring by Aquasave – NGT, commissioned by the Friends of Mount Gambier Area Parks, in 2011 highlighted some concerns for the South Australian population of Glenelg Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus bispinosus) (see Glenelg Spiny Crayfish monitoring). Low numbers, limited recruitment and high percentage of individuals with gonopore aberrations across most sub-populations, as well as a declining trend in the condition of rising-spring aquatic and bank habitat (between 2006 to 2011) justify the species being currently considered ‘Critically Endangered’ in South Australia. Encouragingly, restoration efforts have begun in several locations across the range of the species, with work being conducted by the Friends of Mount Gambier Area Parks and South Australian Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR).

Building on this previous work, Aquasave – NGT is actively involved in ongoing condition monitoring of the SA population and a broader genetic study. The results of the 2011 monitoring – namely, low numbers and a high percentage of aberrant individuals, coupled with isolation and the limited dispersal ability of the species – suggests genetic vulnerability amongst the SA population. In response to these findings, it was decided that a genetic investigation of the species was warranted, and this has now received funding. The Friends of Mt Gambier Area Parks have been awarded a DEWNR State NRM Community Grant and Nature Glenelg Trust was awarded a Norman Wettenhall Foundation grant, which together will provide sufficient funding to enable the genetic structure of the species to be assessed. The genetics study is a collaboration between Oisín Sweeney (DEWNR), Adam Miller (CESAR – Melbourne University) and Nick Whiterod (Aquasave – NGT).

The genetics study involved lots of sampling across South Australia and Victoria and found some worrying results. In particular, it is evident that South Australian populations of the species exhibit critically low genetic diversity and were highly structured with limited gene flow between locations and catchments (e.g. isolated populations). . We have continued condition monitoring  through 2012 (through Friends of Mt Gambier Area Parks grant) and 2013  (through DEWNR) to assess trends in the status of key sub-populations and investigate gaps across the SA range.

In summary, the species persists in the previously identified locations (e.g. Ewens Ponds, Deep Creek) and populations were identified in two isolated sinkholes. However, numbers are patchy and given the genetic outcomes, the species extremely vulnerable to localised habitat degradation and extinction of isolated populations is conceivable in the future. Coordinated conservation efforts must continue to help conserve the species!

For more details

Miller A.D., Sweeney O.F., Whiterod N.S, Van Rooyen A., Hammer M., Weeks A.R. (in review). Highly fragmented populations of the endangered Glenelg spiny freshwater crayfish (Euastacus bispinosus) exhibit critically low levels of genetic diversity.  Submitted to Endangered Species Research.

Miller A. D., Van Rooyen A., Sweeney O.F., Whiterod N.S., Weeks A.R. (2013). The development of 10 novel polymorphic microsatellite markers through next generation sequencing and a preliminary genetic analysis for the endangered Glenelg spiny crayfish, Euastacus bispinosus. Molecular Biology Reports 40, 4415-4419.

Whiterod, N., Hammer, M. (2012). Population monitoring of Glenelg Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus bispinosus) in rising-spring habitats of lower south east, South Australia. Report to the Friends of Parks Inc. Aquasave Consultants, Adelaide. 27 p.

Special thanks to Friends of Mt Gambier Area Parks, the Norman Wettenhall Foundation and DEWNR for support of recent projects.

  • Karst Rising Springs event at Port MacDonnell a great success! May 31, 2016 A large crowd of about 55 community members packed out the Port MacDonnell Community Complex last Thursday evening, the 26th May, to learn about our region’s unique Karst Rising Springs (KRS). Speakers Mark Bachmann and Nick Whiterod tag-teamed to first present the history, background, and current challenges facing these unique ecosystems. Attendees heard that wetlands once covered ...
  • Our coastal Karst Rising Springs are in the spotlight this May! May 11, 2016 The lower South East coast is home to a unique type of wetland called Karst Rising Springs. These environments are spring-fed wetlands and are found close to the coast from the Victorian border to near Bray (SE of Robe). Spring-fed wetlands or Karst Rising Springs (KRS) are distinguished by a permanent water body forming from groundwater ...
  • Papers on the status of Glenelg Spiny Crayfish May 23, 2014 Two scientific papers featuring our research on Glenelg Spiny Crayfish have recently been accepted for publication. The papers highlight the concerning status of the South Australian population of the species and provide a sound basis to conservation.  Details of the papers are (note: links to pdfs will be provided on publications page shortly): Whiterod, N.S., Sweeney, O.F., ...
  • Preliminary genetic investigation prompts Glenelg Spiny Crayfish workshop May 24, 2013 The preliminary outcomes of our spiny crayfish genetics project (funded by Friends of Mt Gambier Area Parks and Norman Wettenhall Foundation) have recently been published (a copy of the paper is attached here). The main focus of the paper was  to document genetic markers that will form the basis of the comprehensive population genetic assessment that ...
  • Summing up the World Wetlands Day event at the Mt Gambier Library February 20, 2013 Earlier tonight I made the journey into the Mount to give a talk on the history of the Piccaninnie Ponds wetlands, including the more recent story of the restoration of the Ponds and Pick Swamp. It was also great to hear about regional groundwater and its interaction with wetlands from Claire Harding, followed by Oisín ...
  • RE Ross Trust Annual Report highlights the Glenelg Spiny Crayfish project January 10, 2013 One of the charitable goals of the RE Ross Trust is to invest in the preservation of Australian flora and fauna – and one way it chooses to do so, is by providing funds to the Norman Wettenhall Foundation to run a Small Environmental Grants Scheme. NGT’s application to the Norman Wettenhall Foundation last year was ...
  • Spreading the pricklyback word! December 9, 2012 I recently gave a presentation entitled ‘Pricklybacks on the brink: an updated assessment of Glenelg Spiny Crayfish within rising-spring habitats of the south east of South Australia’ at the 51st Australian Society for Limnology (ASL) conference in Armidale. It was a great opportunity to highlight the plight of the species at a national level and get input from colleagues ...
  • (Still) on the hunt for Glenelg Spiny Crayfish! September 29, 2012 Oisín and I had the tough task of spending the weekend traversing the Grampians National Park surveying Glenelg Spiny Crayfish as part of our genetics project. We came, we saw and we collected samples from several populations and now have good spatial coverage across the species range to enable assessment of the genetic structure of ...
  • On the hunt for Glenelg Spiny Crayfish! September 7, 2012 Oisín Sweeney (South Australian DEWNR), Lauren and myself have recently had a great time sampling Glenelg Spiny Crayfish across SW Victoria. The highlight was our (almost, 5am!) all nighter on the Crawford River where good catches were observed (thanks to advice from Jodie Honan and Charlie Cooper!). The sampling is contributing to a collaborative (DEWNR, ...

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