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cambarus fasciatus

Common Name:  ETOWAH CRAYFISH

Scientific Name:  Cambarus (Hiaticambarus) fasciatus Hobbs

Rarity Ranks:  G3/S2

State Legal Status:  Threatened

Federal Legal Status:  None

Description:  The carapace and claw color of the Etowah Crayfish are brownish while the segments of the abdomen have pale centers and the rear edge of each segment is red.  The tail may be bluish.  The areola is wide and well developed cervical spines are present.  The rostrum narrows anteriorly, appears slightly pinched in the middle, and has marginal spines or tubercles.  The claws of this species may get quite large compared to the body size and there is a gap between the fingers of the claws when the fingers are closed.  This species reaches a maximum total body length of over 75 mm (3 in).

Similar Species:  Upstream of Allatoona Dam, the Variable Crayfish (Cambarus latimanus) occurs with the Etowah Crayfish. The Variable Crayfish is a drab speckled-brown species with an hourglass shaped areola (versus nearly parallel-sided in the Etowah Crayfish).  It has a rostrum that converges gradually and evenly toward the tip as opposed to the pinched condition exhibited by the Etowah crayfish.  Furthermore, the fingers of the Variable Crayfish touch throughout their length (or nearly so), whereas the fingers of the Etowah Crayfish have a gap between them when closed.  Below Allatoona Dam, the Etowah Crayfish can occur with the very similar Coosa Crayfish (Cambarus coosae).  The main difference separating these two species is the almost parallel-sided rostrum of the Coosa Crayfish versus the pinched and more anteriorly narrowed rostrum of the Etowah Crayfish.

Habitat:  The Etowah Crayfish is usually found beneath rocks in moderately to swiftly flowing areas of streams.  It is occasionally found in association with woody debris or aggregations of leaves.

Diet:  No studies of the Etowah 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 Etowah crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in March, April, and May and females with eggs have been collected in May and June.  Females with young have been observed in May.  Number of eggs for eight individuals ranged from 27-101.  The smallest breeding male known is about 42 mm (1.7 in) and the smallest female with eggs is about 53 mm (2.8 in) in length (Hobbs 1981).

Survey Recommendations:  Since this species is usually found in swift 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 Etowah Crayfish is known only from the Etowah River system, primarily above Allatoona Dam.  All of the records of this species are from the Piedmont physiographic province (Hobbs 1981).  Only three collections have been made downstream of Allatoona Dam and it is possible that this form represents an undescribed species.

Threats:  The small range of this species and the high development rates within that range are significant threats to the Etowah 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 Etowah 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.

Selected References:

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

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 fasciatus map

Date Compiled or Updated:  September 2012

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