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cambarus diogenes


Scientific Name:  Cambarus (Lacunicambarus) diogenes Girard

Rarity Ranks:  G5/S5

State Legal Status:  None

Federal Legal Status:  None

Description:  The overall color of the Devil Crawfish is light brown or tan to olive with abundant red highlighting.  The fingers of the claws are red as well as the mesial margin of the palm.  The rostrum and adjacent postorbital ridges are red as are the rear margins of each abdominal segment.  There are typically three or more rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm and the areola is obliterated.  The rostrum typically tapers somewhat and does not have marginal spines or tubercles.  The claws of adults of this species can be quite large and deliver a painful pinch.  This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 96 mm (3.8 in).

Similar Species:  Within its range, the Devil Crawfish would most likely be confused with the Dougherty Burrowing Crayfish, Cambarus doughertyensis, or the Ambiguous Crayfish, Cambarus striatus.  However, neither of these species has the red coloration exhibited by Devil Crawfish and they both have two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm rather than three or more found on the Devil Crawfish.

Habitat:  Complex burrows adjacent to streams and seepage areas, or in low areas where the water table is near the surface of the ground.  Juvenile Devil Crawfish and females with eggs are often found within streams under rocks or among woody debris (Hobbs 1981).

Diet:  No studies of the Devil Crawfish are known.  Crayfishes are considered opportunistic omnivores and likely feed on live and decaying vegetation, aquatic insect larvae, small fishes, and dead animal matter.  Devil Crawfish have been observed at night in the mouths of their burrows possibly waiting to ambush prey.

Life History:  Male Devil Crawfish in reproductive condition have been collected in Georgia in January, April, and October.  In nearby areas of Florida and Alabama they have also been found in March, May, November, and December.  One female carrying eggs (40) was found in September in Georgia and two in Alabama in April.  The smallest first form male known is about 70 mm (2.75 in) in length and the only female carrying eggs is about 88 mm (3.4 in) in length (Hobbs 1981).

Survey Recommendations:  Burrowing crayfishes may be collected by direct excavation of their burrows, by trapping, and during night surveys.  Excavating burrows is time consuming and can be very difficult.  It also results in destruction of the animals’ burrow.  Traps made with PVC pipes or mist nets can be effective, but only when crayfishes are in an active period.  Burrowing crayfishes are sometimes captured around the openings of their burrows on damp nights.  It is possible to find active burrows from about mid-March to mid-November if the water table is within about 2 feet of the surface of the ground.  However, most activity is seen in the spring from mid-March to mid-May and the fall from mid-September to mid-November.  Since juveniles and females with eggs or young can be found in streams, surveys targeting this species should include looking under rocks and woody debris.

Range:  The Devil Crawfish is one of the most widespread species in North America. It is found in every state east of the Rocky Mountains except the New England states north and east of New York and New Jersey.  In Georgia it is primarily found in the Coastal Plain portion of the Flint and Chattahoochee river systems, although there are a few records from the Ocmulgee and Savannah systems as well (Hobbs 1981; 1989).

Threats:  This species is apparently secure across its range.

Conservation and Management Recommendations:  Conserving populations of the Devil Crawfish 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.  Areas with burrows should be protected from land disturbing activities and activities that could alter groundwater resources.  Environmental education programs should include information about burrowing crayfishes and encourage protection of burrows.

Selected References:

Hobbs, H. H., Jr. 1981. The crayfishes of Georgia. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 318:1-549.

Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1989. An Illustrated Checklist of the American Crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 480:1-236.

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.

cambarus diogenes map

Date Compiled or Updated:  August 2012

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