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Species Description

Chauga/Oconee Crayfish

Cambarus (Puncticambarus) chaugaensis


Classification

Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Family: Cambaridae

Description

Cambarus chaugaensis is a freshwater crayfish, which usually has a carapace length between 25.1 and 39.0 mm (1-1.5 inches). It has moderately large eyes and its rostrum lacks both tubercles and spines. The wide areola is approximately 2-3 times longer than it is wide and is adorned with 5-8 spots or pits. The carapace is olive green on top and a lighter green color on the underside (ventral portion). The dorsal surface (back or topside) has numerous dark brown to black blotches or markings. The yellowish or red-tipped chelae (claws or pinchers) are fairly hardy and have 2 distinctive rows of tubercles or bumps. The antennae are reddish brown.

Life Cycle

Extensive life history studies have not been conducted on most freshwater crayfish, including Cambarus chaugaensis. The limited data about the life cycle of this species is based upon the form or condition of adult crayfish that have been collected. First-form (sexually mature) Cambarus chaugaensis males have been collected in March, May, July, October and November. Females carrying eggs have been collected in April and May. Due to similarity in size and collection times of first-form males and ovigerous females, this species has been speculated to have a life cycle very similar to the extensively studied crayfish, Cambarus longulus. Copulation is believed to occur sometime from September to April. This process involves a sexually mature male crayfish grabbing a female and depositing sperm packages (spermatophores) into the seminal receptacle on the abdomen of a receptive female crayfish. Females secrete a sticky substance on the underside of their abdomen and pleopods in order to attach their eggs. The eggs and sperm (from the seminal receptacle) are then released upon the sticky surface and fertilization occurs. A female carrying eggs on her abdomen and legs is said to be "in berry." Embryos develop and hatch on the underside of females in approximately 3 weeks. The immature hatchlings molt (shed their exoskeleton to allow growth) and remain attached to their mother. These first-stage immature crayfish look fairly similar to typical crayfish, but have very large heads and eyes. Another molting takes place in about 2 weeks. These second-stage immature crayfish look even more like adult crayfish. Second-stage immature crayfish leave their mother's surface and become independent. These young crayfish continue molting and growing and are sexually mature by the following August or September (at approximately 16-17 months old). Sexually mature males and females are believed to mate from September to April and usually die within 3 years of hatching.

Natural History

bat can be quite intense.

Range

Cambarus chaugaensis has a very limited range within tributaries of the Upper Savannah River in Georgia , South Carolina and North Carolina . It is only found in Rabun County in Georgia , Oconee County in South Carolina and Jackson , Macon and Transylvania Counties in North Carolina . It lives within fast-moving streams with rocky substrates.

Conservation Status

Cambarus chaugaensis is currently listed as Rare and Critically Imperiled in Georgia . This crayfish species is only found in one county in Georgia . Water quality degradation, pollution and habitat destruction pose serious threats to this and all species of crayfish in the Southeast.

Similar Species

This species is sometimes confused with Cambarus bartonii. The areola of C. bartonii is usually 3-5 times as long as it is wide and the carapace is an olive brown to tan color. Positive identification of particular species of crayfish often relies upon subtle differences in anatomical characteristics, which can be quite difficult to identify. Species identification is usually best performed by individuals trained to identify crayfish.