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Cambarus hiwasseensis

Common Name:  HIWASSEE CRAYFISH

Scientific Name:  Cambarus (Puncticambarus) hiwasseensis Hobbs

Rarity Ranks:  G3G4/S3

State Legal Status:  None

Federal Legal Status:  None

Description:  The overall color of the Hiwassee Crayfish is light brown with darker mottling.  On the abdomen, there is a series of darker scalloped markings on each segment creating a slightly striped appearance.  The claws are olive-brown. There are two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm and the areola is wide.  The rostrum essentially tapers throughout its length and never has marginal tubercles.  A single small cervical tubercle is usually present.  This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 80 mm (3.1 in).

Similar Species:  The Hiwassee Crayfish is very similar to the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish, Cambarus parrishi.  Although they both occur in the upper Hiwassee River system in Georgia and North Carolina they have never been collected at the same site in Georgia and have been collected together only once in North Carolina (Simmons and Fraley 2010).  The only reliable difference separating the two is the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish has marginal spines or tubercles on the rostrum, while the Hiwassee Crayfish does not.  It may take magnification to discern the tubercles on the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish.  The Hiwassee Crayfish has been collected with the similar looking Common Crayfish, Cambarus bartonii bartonii.  The claws of the Hiwassee Crayfish have two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm, while those of Common Crayfish have a single row.

Habitat:  The Hiwassee Crayfish is a stream dweller and is found in flowing areas among rocks and debris trapped among rocks.

Diet:  No studies of the Hiwassee 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 Hiwassee Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in all months except January, February, July, September, and December.  Coincidentally, these are the months in which no collections have been made so it seems possible that reproductive males may be found at any time of the year.  One female carrying eggs and young was collected in June and had 13 eggs and 51 young attached; she was about 60 mm (2.4 in) total length.  The smallest breeding male known is about 50 mm (2 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 slowly and coaxing the crayfish into the dipnet.  Shocking downstream into a seine net with a backpack electroshocker is also effective. 

Range:  The Hiwassee Crayfish is known from the upper Hiwassee River system in Georgia and North Carolina.  In Georgia it can be found in the Hiwassee and Nottely rivers and Brasstown Creek (Hobbs 1981; Simmons and Fraley 2010).

Threats:  This species is apparently secure across its range although increased residential development in the North Carolina portion of its range warrants monitoring of this species (Simmons and Fraley 2010).

Conservation and Management Recommendations: Conserving populations of the Hiwassee 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 where they will be fishing. Unused bait of any kind should not be released back into Georgia waters. 

Selected References:

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

Simmons, J. W. and S. J. Fraley. 2010. Distribution, status, and life-history observations of crayfishes in western North Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 9 (Special Issue 3):79–126.

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 hiwasseensis map

Date Compiled or Updated:  August 2012

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