10 May 2004

The Case of the Alaskan Crawdad

Dear Blue Lobster:

I just read this this article about a crayfish being discovered in Alaska. According to the story, no crays are native to Alaska and they actually present a threat to native wildlife. How did the crayfish get all the way to Alaska?

Dear Gentle Sir:

The response to discovery of a live crayfish in the wilds of Alaska has caused quite a stir in the crustacean community. The primary concern is to stop the spread of this non-native species. As the story notes, foreign crayfish can become 90% of the biomass in a susceptible ecosystem if left unchecked. Though physically tiny, the crayfish found in the Kenai Peninsula could mean a breakdown of the foodchain, decimation of the fishing industry, and a cooling of regional temperatures as trees and other plant life dies off. Some scientists fear pestilence and famine further down the line if the crays are not stopped.

The question of how the cray arrived in Alaska has been pushed to the back-burner, but let's examine it here for a second. In any introduction of a foreign species to an ecosystem there are three primary methods of transmission. Manual transmission implies some person or persons acted to release the organism into the wild. This can mean a deliberate attempt to establish a species or simply an unscrupulous pet owner loosing their animal to be rid of its burden.

Neoautoestablishmentism describes a situation where an individual or species will migrate to a foreign area. Some new factor in their own ecosystem forces them to seek out new regions to live in, and can include pollution, disease, change in climate, and depression. In this case there is no human intervention behind the migration, but this can be even more deadly for a habitat: By the time authorities notice changes in the ecology, damage may be too extensive to repair or halt.

The third way new species enter into new territories is, simply put, aliens. For centuries mankind has reported abductions and experimentation by people from the sky. In recent history we note saucer-like objects filled with grey, large-headed humanoids. Scientists theorize that these eery beings are cataloging species and studying how the ecology of our planet works and that the introduction of organisms into foreign systems are actually performed by aliens themselves.

In the case of this cray being found thousands of miles away from its natural clime in chilly Alaska, it's a safe bet to blame aliens. Clearly the crayfish is incapable of flight, and the land mass is far too large to cover for such a small, water-dependent creature. Only a glowing orb piloted by bug-eyed extraterrestrials can adequately explain the crawdad's presence in the swamps of Kenai. And sadly for Kenai, these aliens spell ecological trouble.