Georgia Wildlife Web

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

Species Description

Crayfish

Cambarus (Depressicambarus) reflexus


Classification

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

Description

The carapace of this small-eyed crayfish is reddish tan and lacks distinguishing markings. The 1 st segment of the abdomen is nearly black and the remaining segments become progressively lighter as they approach the pinkish tail. The orange brown chelae (claws) of this species are fairly broad and triangular in shape. The areola is very narrow or linear in appearance and never has more than 1 spot or pit in the narrowest portion. The carapace of Cambarus reflexus often measures between 29 and 38 mm (1.1-1.5 in) in length.

Life Cycle

There have been relatively few life history studies conducted on crayfish. The available life history data for Cambarus reflexus 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 April, August and September. Females carrying eggs have been collected during April and females carrying young have been collected during August. The life cycle of this species is presumed to be fairly similar to the generalized crayfish life history described below. The exact breeding season of this species is currently unknown. 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. During the appropriate time(s) of year, 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. Many adult crayfish die within 3 years of hatching.

Natural History

Adult C. reflexus crayfish are found in complex burrows in low-lying areas. The constructed burrows often have multiple openings that are usually marked with poorly constructed chimneys (mounds of sand or mud placed around openings above ground). This species is also sometimes found under logs in seepage areas. Occasionally, adults leave the general safety of their burrows to search for food or a mate at night. Crayfish are generally omnivorous scavengers, feeding upon any food source available within their habitat. Food for this species may include plant material, insects and perhaps other crayfish. They use their chelae (claws) on their first 3 legs to grab, crush and tear their food. This food is further cut by a number of specialized mouthparts. Crayfish usually walk slowly using their last 4 walking legs (periopods). When frightened or in danger, however, they quickly escape by "darting" backwards into their burrows.

Range

This species is found in low-lying areas along the Savannah and Ogeechee River basins in Georgia and South Carolina . Within Georgia , it has been found in Burke, Effingham, Glascock and Warren Counties .

Conservation Status

Cambarus reflexus is listed as rare in Georgia and is threatened by habitat destruction and pollution within its limited range.

Similar Species

Identification of this rare species is difficult because it lacks distinct markings or patterns. Identification is usually best performed by individuals that have been trained to distinguish subtle anatomical features.