Crayfishes of Georgia Overview List of Georgia Species Species Lists by Drainage Crayfish Identification Keys by Drainage Ecology and Life History Links and Other Useful Information Glossary
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cambarus parrishi

Common Name:  HIWASSEE HEADWATER CRAYFISH

Scientific Name:  Cambarus (Puncticambarus) parrishi Hobbs

Rarity Ranks:  G2G3/S1

State Legal Status:  Endangered

Federal Legal Status:  None

Description:  The overall color of the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish is a brownish-green with dark mottling.  The areola is wide and the rostrum gradually narrows anteriorly and has two very small marginal tubercles.  This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 75 mm (3 in).

Habitat:  This species is a stream dweller and is usually collected from beneath large rocks in flowing water, usually near riffles.  Occasionally they can be found in packs of leaf litter.

Similar Species:  The Hiwassee Headwater Headwater Crayfish occurs with the similar Common Crayfish, Cambarus bartonii.  The rostrum of the latter is short and tapers abruptly.  The rostrum of the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish tapers, but is longer and has small marginal tubercles.  Furthermore, the claws of the Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish have two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm, while those of the Common Crayfish have a single row.  In North Carolina, Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish have been found at one location with its close relative Hiwassee Crayfish, Cambarus hiwasseensis.  The two are known from very near each other in the Hiwassee River in Georgia and care should be taken when identifying crayfishes in that area.  The Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish has marginal tubercles on the rostrum while Hiwassee Crayfish does not.

Diet:  No studies of the Hiwassee Headwater 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 Headwater Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in January, April, May, August, October, and November and females carrying eggs were found in April and June.  Numbers of eggs ranged from 38-112 with diameters of 2.2-2.6 mm.  The smallest breeding male is about 50 mm (2 in.) and the smallest female with eggs about 53 mm (2.1 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 Hiwassee Headwater Crayfish is known only from the extreme headwater portions of the Hiwassee River system in North Carolina and Georgia in the Blue Ridge physiographic province (Hobbs 1989; Simmons and Fraley 2010).  In Georgia, the species is restricted to the Hiwassee River system upstream of Blairsville in Towns County.

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

Specific Management Recommendations:  Conserving populations of the Hiwassee headwater 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.

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

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 parrishi map

Date Compiled or Updated:  September 2012

cambarus parrishi
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