Explanation for how shrimps can change sex

From left, Paul Stanley, Jo Crisp, George Heasman, Mercedes Bevan, Luke Galea and Bethany Bevan from Highbury College

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PORTSMOUTH scientists have discovered a previously unknown parasite which may be responsible for turning shrimps and other crustaceans from male to female.

The research, which reverses 40 years of scientific thinking, means scientists can start addressing the problem of gender imbalance in crustaceans caused by feminising parasites.

Marine biologists at the University of Portsmouth have discovered a new species of paramyxean, a type of parasite.

Their research led them to conclude that the existing parasite simply ‘hitchhikes’ a ride with the new parasite which carries out the work of sex reversal

Dr Alex Ford from the University’s Institute of Marine Science (IMS) said: ‘This is vital research because we’re seeing a gender imbalance which is a serious ecological problem affecting species further up the food chain.

‘Marine creatures such as shrimps and molluscs are food for fish and seabirds which mean the consequences could be profound.’