White River Crayfish

by Carl Strang

The stream corridor marsh at Mayslake Forest Preserve continues to dole out little lessons in diversity. The newest addition to its species list appeared in one of the amphibian traps late last week.

How to hold a crayfish so it can’t pinch you.

I was struck by the general reddish color, but otherwise I am not familiar with crayfish and so took a number of photos from various angles. Details of the dorsal view of head and carapace proved to be especially helpful.

For example, the broad convex sides of the top of the head leading to a point, the slightly dished in top of the head, and the separation between the grooves defining the sides of the carapace all are important features.

The broad black stripe on the dorsal abdomen or tail also was an important characteristic.

I released the crayfish after photographing it.

This is a white river crayfish, Procambarus acutus. The name is somewhat ironic, as this species lives in marshes, ponds and other still waters, albeit in flood plains of streams, throughout the Mississippi River drainage. Though they do not live in streams, presumably they use them to disperse among suitable bodies of water. I was pleased to find that this is a native species.

The reference I used was The Crayfishes of Missouri by William L. Pflieger, published by the Missouri Department of Conservation. I was intrigued by the caption to a photo in that book which showed a pond resembling the stream corridor marsh. It said that 5 crayfish species occur in that pond, and I am hopeful that others will turn up here as well. Thanks also are due to Don LaBrose, Forest Preserve District aquatic ecologist, who suggested some possibilities which included the white river crayfish.

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2 Comments

  1. April 5, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Examples include crayfish leeches water beetles and the larva of dragonflies caddisflies and mayflies.

  2. April 27, 2011 at 6:25 am

    […] thought for a time that I had caught a second crayfish species. Unlike the white river crayfish I caught earlier, this one did not have a dominant burgundy […]


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