What’s going on?

Scientists are fascinated and horrified by a species of crayfish that doesn’t need a mother and a father for eggs to be fertilized. Marbled crayfish can clone themselves: The mother crayfish’s eggs grow into copies of her through parthenogenesis.

“Every single one has the ability to reproduce. Every single one could start a new population,” crustacean researcher Zen Faulkes told The Atlantic.

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Stu and Glenn talked about this bizarre science story on today’s show.


Should we be prepared for an invasion?

Maybe not yet, but it doesn’t hurt to be on the lookout! A German aquarium owner first alerted scientists to the existence of the marbled crayfish when he noticed that some “Texas crayfish” he’d purchased were mysteriously filling up the tank.

The marbled crayfish has spread across Europe in recent years and is threatening native crayfish in Madagascar. Just one can produce hundreds of eggs at a time.

Yikes … do we know why this happened?

It’s still a mystery. For the first time, scientists have learned more through sequencing the DNA of the marbled crayfish – of 11 marbled crayfish, to be exact. They were all clones, the progeny of one single crayfish that inexplicably reproduced by self-replicating. Scientists also discovered that the marbled crayfish is triploid, which means that it has three sets of chromosomes.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article provided courtesy of TheBlaze.

Adam Berry/Getty Images

This is a rush transcript and may contain errors.

GLENN: Welcome back to the program. You know, we were just talking about these crayfish that are — have mutated and now they can — they can have babies without having a male. The women self-fertilize the eggs. And they’re taking over Europe. I see this as a movie. A bad 1950s B movie.

STU: They’re cloning themselves. Literally cloning — genetically cloning themselves. And I guess they become popular, aquarium hobbyists in the 1990s. Because they were bigger than the normal ones. And they produce lots of eggs, so you get lots of extras. And they kept producing so many extras, people started freaking out and just bringing them to local lakes and just dumping them into lakes, the extras. And then, of course, obviously, free to roam, they’re very resilient, they’re able to produce more and more and more. And now they’re all over the world. No one knows how to get rid of them, or what to do with them.

GLENN: It’s honestly like the — is it the rabbit population in Australia? Do you know that?

I think it’s rabbits, isn’t it?

STU: I know one phrase about rabbits that works into the story.

GLENN: I know. But I can’t remember how this worked. But somebody brought over I think it was rabbits to Australia. And there was the natural predators were not strong enough. And the rabbit population went crazy and overrun — I think it’s Australia, with rabbits. And it was a real problem over in Australia. Because people — you know — the cute little crawfish. But you’re taking it out of its natural little habitat. And you’re starting to dump it. And it doesn’t necessarily have any predators. And in this case, it’s genetically cloning itself.

STU: Is that the one where there’s like a whole island, where it’s just like covered in —

GLENN: I don’t know. It might be a book that I read with my kids at night. I don’t know.

STU: It’s interesting though that they say that the — about one out of every 10,000 species, this occurs with. There’s some mutation. And then the woman — the lovely woman, she —

GLENN: The craw person.

STU: The craw person is very much says me too and doesn’t want to be with the men anymore.

GLENN: Right.

STU: And then she starts having her own clone babies. And I guess it’s relatively common.

GLENN: Well, wait. One out of every 10,000. How come we haven’t been overrun by whatever it is?

STU: We sadly think the same way. Because I was reading the whole article. Like, wait a minute. We’re going to have like 9 feet of crawfish in two weeks. That was the way I was ending this.

GLENN: Right. It’s Moore’s Law.

STU: Right.

Apparently, they have a very strange life cycle, these species. Because they launch, and they — like, legitimately they don’t know exactly what happened. But about 25 years ago, this is a brand-new species. And it has this huge run where they multiply like crazy. And then they all sort of die out at once.

And what they believe is because they’re genetic clones, they’re affected by the same things. So when a disease hits one, it hits all of them at once and wipes them all out.

GLENN: That’s what happened to the Aztecs.

STU: It’s what happens in every space horror movie. Every sci-fi film. I mean, War of the Worlds, right?

GLENN: Yeah. H.G. Wells. He was — I think he was the first to do it. Where it was the common cold that killed the aliens.

STU: Yeah. And just — spoiler alert —

GLENN: In case you happen to be in the world of H.G. Wells.
(laughter)
STU: But, yeah, that’s what happens. It’s kind of crazy. So it’s a —

GLENN: So you’re saying that diversity is a good thing.

STU: Yeah, I guess.

GLENN: Right? That’s what you’re saying.

STU: I am. Even around cray people.

GLENN: Around cray people. Crawfish are people too.

STU: They are.

GLENN: That’s interesting. Because you would think that maybe — maybe we would — maybe we would actually celebrate diversity instead of saying we celebrate diversity. We would actually — you know what’s crazy about this is I guarantee you, when they start to die out, it will be blamed on whoever, the polluters, the planet, or whoever. They will complete dismiss this happened, all the time. And they will start a save the crayfish, you know, fund. And we will have to save — and people will pour money in. They’ll say it’s the worst thing ever. And look at what we’re doing to these poor crawfish. These are unique crawfish. And they’ll spend billions of dollars to try to save them.

STU: Yeah, probably.

GLENN: When it’s kind of natural.