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Procambarus clarkii tank


Scientific Name:  Procambarus (Scapulicambarus) clarkii (Girard)

Rarity Ranks:  G5/Non-native

State Legal Status:  None

Federal Legal Status:  None

Description:  The overall color of the Red Swamp Crawfish includes reds, reddish-browns, and pinkish hues.  The back is dark reddish brown to dark red.  The sides are pinkish-orangish with white speckles and whitish splotching.  There are numerous small, dark tubercles on the carapace.  The abdomen has dark transverse bands on each segment which create the appearance of a broad, dark longitudinal stripe.  The claws are dark red to blackish with bright orangish-reddish tubercles.  Another color form seen on juveniles, females, and smaller males is overall brown with dark splotches, white speckles, and dark tubercles.  The claws of adult males are similar to the above description but the background color of the claws of juveniles and females may be dark brown.  The areola is narrow and often obliterated.  The rostrum is long and pointed and often has marginal spines or tubercles, especially on juveniles.  A single cervical tubercle is usually present and may be a sharp spine on juveniles.  This species reaches a maximum total body length of over 100 mm (>4 in).

Similar Species:  Above the Fall Line, there is no other crayfish species in Georgia with orangish-reddish tubercles on the claws.  Below the Fall Line this species could be confused with its close relatives Eastern Red Swamp Crawfish (Procambarus troglodytes), Ornate Crayfish (P. howellae), and Peninsula Crayfish (P. paeninsulanus); however, to date it has not been collected within the range of any of these species.  Details of the male reproductive structure are required to separate these species from one another. 

Habitat:  The Red Swamp Crawfish occurs in permanent streams and swamps as well as temporary habitats such as ditches and ponds.  In streams it is usually associated with vegetation or woody debris, or undercut banks.  In areas where open water recedes, it can be found in simple burrows. 

Diet:  Crayfishes are considered opportunistic omnivores and likely feed on live and decaying vegetation, aquatic insect larvae, small fishes, and dead animal matter.

Life History:  There is little data on the life history of this species in Georgia.  In its native range, breeding probably occurs in the spring and females retreat to burrows to lay eggs and rear young.  Males in reproductive condition range in size from about 50 mm (2 in.) to over 100 mm (>4 in.) in total length (Walls 2009).

Survey Recommendations:  In streams or ponds, kicking through vegetation into a net can yield specimens.  If there are rocks or logs in the creek, they may be carefully lifted and crayfish may be pinned by hand or coaxed into a dipnet.  Excavation of burrows adjacent to drying ponds or ditches should also yield specimens. 

Range:   The native distribution of Red Swamp Crawfish ranges from Mexico to the Florida panhandle and the Mississippi River basin north to southern Illinois and Ohio (Hobbs 1989).  It has been introduced across the United States and the world as a food resource for people.  Hobbs (1981) did not mention it as occurring in Georgia, but it has now been found in the Etowah, Flint, upper Ocmulgee, Oconee, and Savannah river systems.  I am aware of three Red Swamp Crawfish production operations which are now closed.  They were in Harris County in the Chattahoochee River basin, Berrien County in the Alapaha River basin (Suwannee tributary), and in Camden County in the Satilla River basin.  I have made targeted collections near all of these areas for Red Swamp Crawfish but have not discovered any wild populations.  This species was recently discovered in a freshwater pond on Little St. Simons Island (Skelton unpubl. data)

Threats:  This species is apparently secure across its range.

Conservation and Management Recommendations:  This species is commonly used by school systems for educational purposes and also consumed as food.  It is possible to have live crayfish shipped anywhere overnight.  If this species is used for educational purposes, please humanely euthanize unused specimens by placing them in the freezer for several hours.  Under no circumstances should this species be released to the wild.  Introduction of non-native species is one of the leading causes of native species declines.

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.

Walls, J.G. 2009. Crawfishes of Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge. 240 pp.

 Procambarus clarkii map web
Date Compiled or Updated:
  March 2013

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