Disturbance in invasion? Idiopathic necrotizing hepatopancreatitis in the signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus (Dana, 1852) in Croatia.
As the most successful crayfish invader and possible vector for infectious agents, signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus is among the major drivers of the native crayfish species decline in Europe. We describe histopathological manifestation and frequency of newly detected idiopathic necrotizing hepatopancreatitis along the invasion range of the signal crayfish in the Korana River in Croatia. Our results show extremely high prevalence of necrotizing hepatopancreatitis (97.3%), with 58.9% of individuals displaying mild and 31.5% moderate histopathological changes in the hepatopancreas, also reflected in the lower hepatosomatic index of analysed animals. Recorded histopathological changes were more frequent in the invasion core where population density is higher. Our preliminary screening of co-occurring native narrow-clawed crayfish Pontastacus leptodactylus showed lower incidence (33.3%) and only mild hepatopancreatic lesions, but potentially highlighted the susceptibility of native crayfish populations to this disease. Pilot analyses of dissolved trace and macro elements in water, sediment fractions and crayfish hepatopancreas do not highlight alarming or unusually high concentrations of analysed elements. Hepatopancreas microbiome analysis, using 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing, identified taxonomic groups that should be further investigated, along with impacts of the disease on health and viability of both invasive and native crayfish populations.