Common Name: MOUNTAIN CRAYFISH
Scientific Name: Cambarus (Jugicambarus) conasaugaensis Hobbs and Hobbs III
Rarity Ranks: G3/S3
State Legal Status: None
Federal Legal Status: None
Description: The overall color of the Mountain Crayfish is reddish or orangish-brown to olive-green. This species has a single row of well-developed tubercles on the mesial margin of the palm with some obvious setae present on the fingers. Rostrum relatively short, wide, and gradually tapering; areola wide. This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 70 mm (2.75 in).
Similar Species: The Mountain Crayfish has been collected with Variable Crayfish (Cambarus latimanus) and Ambiguous Crayfish (C. striatus), both of which have two rows of tubercles on the mesial margin of the palm. It is most likely to be confused with the similar Common Crayfish (C. bartonii) which also has a single row of tubercles on the palm. The tubercles of C. bartonii are not as well-developed (they are flattened) on the palm and there are no obvious setae on the fingers of the claws.
Habitat: The Mountain Crayfish can be found in a wide variety of habitats including rocky portions of medium sized rivers, cascading mountain streams, and seepage areas. It tunnels among rocks and may construct complex burrows at stream edges. Hobbs (1981) suggested it occurs only above an elevation of 400 m.
Diet: No studies of the Mountain Crayfish are known. Crayfishes are considered opportunistic omnivores and likely feed on live and decaying vegetation, aquatic insects, small fishes, and dead animal matter.
Life History: Male Mountain Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in April, June, September, and October. Females carrying eggs are known from April and June. Number of eggs for three specimens was 27, 33, and 53. The smallest breeding male known is about 60 mm (2.3 in) and the smallest female with eggs is about 56 mm (2.2 in) in length (Hobbs 1981).
Survey Recommendations: This species can be difficult to find; it is typically not found beneath a single rock on the surface of the stream bed like many species. Rather, this species essentially tunnels among rocks and a surveyor must patiently remove rocks one at a time in the proper habitat and catch the crayfish by hand or coax it into a dipnet.
Range: In Georgia, Mountain Crayfish are known from the Blue Ridge, upper Piedmont, and Ridge and Valley physiographic provinces in the upper portions of the Conasauga and Etowah rivers and the Coosawattee River system above Carters Lake. In Tennessee they have been collected from tributaries to the Ocoee River (Hiwassee River tributary) in Polk County.
Threats: This species is apparently secure across its range.
Conservation and Management Recommendations: Conserving populations of the Mountain 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.
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: August 2012