Georgia Wildlife Web

Home Glossary Classification Conservation Status Regions of Georgia Fishes of Georgia Make a Donation

Species Description

Chattahoochee Crayfish

Cambarus (Cambarus) howardi


Classification

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

Description

The Chattahoochee Crayfish has a lavender-brown to forest green carapace that is decorated with red markings on the dorsal (back or topside) surface. The telson (middle portion of the tail) is bluish green and fades to a pinkish cream color near the end of the tail. The uropods (right and left portions of the tail) are pinkish tan. The eyes are small to medium-sized. The rostrum lacks spines and tubercles (small bumps). The rostrum margins converge from the base to the tip to form a distinctive triangle shape. The carapace usually measures between 20 and 38 mm (0.75-1.5 in) in length. The narrowest portion of the areola is adorned with 3-6 small spots or pits.

Life Cycle

There have been relatively few life history studies conducted on crayfish. The available life history data for Cambarus howardi is limited to the form or condition of specimens collected during certain times of the year. First-form (sexually mature) males have been collected during January, March, April, May, September and October. Egg-bearing females have been collected during April and May. Female specimens have been observed with attached young during June. The life cycle of this species is presumed to be fairly similar to the generalized crayfish life history described below. Copulation has not been observed, but probably occurs from September to May. Copulation 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. Usually during the spring, 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 2-20 weeks, likely depending upon species and temperature. 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 disproportionately large heads and eyes. Another molting takes place in about 1-2 weeks. These second-stage immature crayfish look even more like adult crayfish. Second-stage or third-stage immature crayfish leave their mother's surface and become independent. These young crayfish continue molting and growing and are usually sexually mature by their second or third autumn. Sexually mature males and females are believed to mate between autumn and spring. Many adult crayfish die within 3 years of hatching.

Natural History

ticularly aggressive with one another and their claw-to-claw combat can be quite intense.

Range

The Chattahoochee Crayfish has a limited range within the Chattahoochee River basin in Georgia to Halawakee Creek in Lee County, Alabama. It is found in Lumpkin, Hall, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas , Forsyth and Fulton Counties in Georgia . It is found amongst rocks in riffle areas of rapidly flowing streams.

Conservation Status

This species is uncommon in Georgia . It has a restricted range near a large and rapidly growing city ( Atlanta ). As this metropolitan center continues expanding, habitat degradation, construction of impoundments and pollution will pose even greater threats to this species.

Similar Species

This species is fairly distinct in Georgia . Its combination of lavender to forest green carapace, red markings and distinctive rostrum usually distinguishes this species from most species within its range.