Invasive records of Eriocheir hepuensis Dai, 1991 (Crustacea: Brachyura: Grapsoidea: Varunidae): Implications and taxonomic considerations
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A non-ovigerous female mitten crab captured in Iraq on the 20th June 2005 was initially identified as Eriocheir sinensis H. Milne Edwards, 1853. More material has now been made available from Iraq and Kuwait and these specimens were compared with the extant type series of E. sinensis and E. hepuensis Dai, 1991. From this morphological study the Persian Gulf material was identified as the Hepu mitten crab, E. hepuensis. This is the first report of this mitten crab species outside its native range of southern China. However, because mitten crab taxonomy and systematics requires further clarification especially with respect to species of Eriocheir De Haan, 1835, the DNA of the Persian Gulf material was compared with a suite of GenBank COI sequences from various mitten crab taxa. The results of this extensive examination indicate that the Iraqi and Kuwaiti specimens are E. hepuensis and the DNA analysis indicates that mitten crabs can be assigned to three genera and six species; although the present study does discuss reports of hybridisation between three Eriocheir species associated with aquaculture. Also reported, and of concern, is that E. hepuensis may have been first collected about thirty years ago in Iraq and has now become well established within that country. As a consequence the Hepu mitten crab could, given its catadromy, disperse widely throughout the extensive riverine systems of the region.
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