Common Name: BEAUTIFUL CRAYFISH
Scientific Name: Cambarus (Hiaticambarus) speciosus Hobbs
Rarity Ranks: G2/S2
State Legal Status: Endangered
Federal Legal Status: None
Description: The carapace color of the Beautiful Crayfish is orange-tan and the abdomen greenish. There are greenish bands in front and behind the areola creating a moderate saddled appearance. The edges of the rostrum and rear margins of the abdominal segments are reddish. The areola is wide with margins nearly parallel sided and a well developed cervical spine is present on each side of the carapace. The rostrum is narrow and tapers anteriorly. The claws can be quite large in relation to the body and there is a gap between the fingers of the claw when the fingers are closed. There is usually a tuft of setae at the base of the fixed finger of the claw. This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 90 mm (3.5 in).
Similar Species: The Beautiful Crayfish differs from all other species within its range, except the Coosawattee Crayfish (Cambarus coosawattae), by having claws with a large gap between the fingers when the fingers are closed. It differs from the Coosawattee Crayfish by having a single, well developed cervical spine and a gradually tapering rostrum rather than a rostrum that appears “pinched” in the middle.
Habitat: The Beautiful Crayfish is usually collected in medium-sized streams from beneath rocks in moderate to swift current.
Diet: No studies of the Beautiful Crayfish are known. Crayfishes are considered opportunistic omnivores and likely feed on live and decaying vegetation, aquatic insect larvae, small fishes, and dead animal matter.
Life History: Male Beautiful Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in April, September, and October and a single female carrying eggs was found in April. The smallest reproductive male is about 56 mm (2.2 in) and the female with eggs is about 61 mm (2.4 in) in length (Hobbs 1981).
Survey Recommendations: Since this species is usually found in flowing water, it is most easily collected by holding a net perpendicular to the current downstream of a large rock, then lifting the rock and disturbing the substrate beneath it. If a crayfish is hiding underneath the rock, it will likely move into the net. Shocking downstream into a seine net with a backpack electroshocker is also effective.
Range: The Beautiful Crayfish is endemic to the Coosawattee River system (Upper Coosa River system) in northwest Georgia. Records are known from Talking Rock Creek and several other streams and rivers upstream of Carter’s Lake Reservoir. Almost all of the occupied watersheds fall within the Blue Ridge physiographic province. Hobbs (1981) reported it from 10 locations and Schuster (2001) documented it at five additional sites.
Threats: The small range of this species and the high development rates within that range are significant threats to the Beautiful Crayfish. Heavy sedimentation resulting from poor development and land management practices may cover substrates and other daytime hiding places on which crayfishes rely to avoid predation. The introduction of non-native crayfishes is a threat to all native crayfishes.
Conservation and Management Recommendations: Conserving populations of the Beautiful Crayfish will require general watershed level protection measures, including the protection of riparian zones, control of sediment and nutrient runoff from farms and construction sites, and limiting the amount of impervious cover (e.g., pavement) within occupied watersheds. Non-native crayfishes should never be used for bait. Instead, anglers should use crayfishes collected from the river system they will be fishing in and should never release unused bait crayfish back into Georgia waters.
Hobbs, H. H., Jr. 1981. The crayfishes of Georgia. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 318:1-549.
Schuster, G. A. 2001. A study of the current status of two species of crayfishes, Cambarus coosawattae, and Cambarus speciosus, both endemic to the Coosawattee River system, in northern Georgia. Final Report, Georgia Forest Watch, Ellijay, GA. 9 pp.
Taylor, C. A., G. A. Schuster, J. E. Cooper, R. J. DiStefano, A. G. Eversole, P. Hamr, H. H. Hobbs III, H. W. Robison, C. E. Skelton, and R. F. Thoma. 2007. A reassessment of the conservation status of crayfishes of the United States and Canada after 10+ years of increased awareness. Fisheries 32(8):372-389.
Date Compiled or Updated: September 2012