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Keywords:

  • Marmorkrebs;
  • model organism;
  • development;
  • epigenetics;
  • environmental epigenomics;
  • evolution;
  • regeneration;
  • stem cells

Abstract

Model organisms have contributed significantly to the understanding of basic biological phenomena. Suitable animal models are at hand for some research disciplines like genetics, development and cell biology but are still sought after for others like epigenetics. Research of the last years has revealed that the marbled crayfish (Marmorkrebs), which was discovered in the mid-1990s, meets researchers' demands for a vigorous, genetically identical and eurytopic laboratory model very well. Its most prominent advantages are production of high numbers of genetically identical offspring, stepwise alteration of the phenotype by moulting, complex morphology and behaviour and sequential generation of segments and limbs. This paper first reviews the discovery and research history of the marbled crayfish, its biology and culture and its special advantages. It then discusses, based on the published data, its suitability as a laboratory model for various research disciplines. The greatest potential of the marbled crayfish lies in epigenetics and environmental epigenomics and in stem cell research and regeneration. The marbled crayfish also appears to be suitable for the investigation of the role of stochastic developmental variation and epigenetic inheritance in evolution and to contribute to evo-devo and eco-devo. This unique crayfish is even of some value for applied biologists, for example as a toxicological test species.