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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orconectes forceps tank

Common Name: SURGEON CRAYFISH

Scientific Name:  Orconectes (Procericambarus) forceps (Faxon)

Rarity Ranks:  G5/S1

State Legal Status:  None

Federal Legal Status:  None

 

 

Description:  The overall color of the Surgeon Crayfish is light to dark brown with darker brown markings. There is a dark saddle behind the areola.  The fingers of the claws are tipped orangish and are black just behind the tips.  There are two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm and the fingers of the claws gape widely when they are closed.  The areola is wide and shaped much like an hourglass.  The rostrum is fairly long, parallel-sided, and has a long sharp acumen and marginal spines or tubercles.  There is a single well developed cervical spine.  The largest specimen found in
Georgia is about 50 mm (2.0 in) in total length.

Similar Species:  The only other species in the area that has the fingers gaping when they are closed is the Tanback Crayfish, Cambarus girardianus.  The Tanback Crayfish has a striking saddled color pattern on the carapace and a broad dark stripe down the center of the abdomen.  It also does not have orangish color on the tips of the fingers.

Habitat:  The Surgeon Crayfish is a stream dweller and can be found beneath rocks or woody debris throughout the streams in which it inhabits.  However, it is more likely to be found under rocks in riffle areas (Bouchard 1976).

Diet:  No studies of the Surgeon 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:  Across its range male Surgeon Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in all months except December, January, February, and July.  Females carrying eggs were found in March and April and one with young in April.  The smallest male in reproductive condition collected is about 38 mm (1.5 in) in length.

Survey Recommendations:  Flipping larger rocks in just about any habitat in a stream should turn up this species.  The animal can be pinned by hand or gently driven into a dipnet.   Dipnetting through leaf packs could yield some specimens as well.

Range:  Surgeon Crayfish is endemic to the Tennessee River system and can be found from southwestern Virginia to just west of Chattanooga, Tennessee.  In Georgia, it is only known from the South Chickamauga Creek system in the northwestern portion of the state (Hobbs 1981; 1989).

Threats:  This species is apparently secure across its range although it is very restricted in Georgia.

Conservation and Management Recommendations:  Conserving populations of the Surgeon 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:

Bouchard, R. W. 1976. Geography and Ecology of Crayfishes of the Cumberland Plateau and Cumberland Mountains, Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama, Part I: The Genera Procambarus and Orconectes. In James W. Avault, Jr., editor, Freshwater Crayfish, pages 563-584, 1 figure. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State 1981. University Division of Continuing Education.

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.

orconectes forceps map

Date Compiled or Updated:  August 2012

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