A team of Czech scientists discovered the first cave crayfish in New Guinea and in the Southern Hemisphere. Cherax acherontis Patoka, Bláha and Kouba, 2017 is the first cave crayfish found outside North America. This is a unique discovery that contributes to the knowledge of evolutionary processes of unrelated species and their adaptation to the extreme environment, such as the caves.

Researchers Jiří Patoka from the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague and Martin Bláha and Antonín Kouba from the University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice have been working with the New Guinean crayfishes for several years, and among others, they already scientifically described two other species. The moment they came to know from local guide about endemic crayfish inhabiting a submerged river flowing through karst caves in the mountains of the Papua Province, they decided to arrange an expedition to discover and explore this enigmatic cave dweller.

Cherax acherontis is a crayfish endemic to the submerged river Yumugima in Hagepma/Jugurama cave in the New Guinea Highlands, Jayawijaya Regency, Papua Province, Indonesia. Its Latin named is derived from Acheron, one of the rivers that ran through the underworld of ancient Greek mythology. Crayfish has reduced eyes due to lack of light, and its body has lost almost all pigmentation. The other features are similar to North American cave crayfish species and corroborate convergent evolution when unrelated species develop similarly due to the environmental pressure.

Further details can be found in the following publication: Patoka, J., Bláha, M., Kouba, A., 2017. Cherax acherontis (Decapoda: Parastacidae), the first cave crayfish from the Southern Hemisphere (Papua Province, Indonesia). Zootaxa 4363: 137-144. (IF 2016 = 0.972)

Short video from the expedition (in Czech) available here.


Martin Bláha Jiří Patoka
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E-mail: blaha@frov.jcu.cz E-mail: patoka@af.czu.cz
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