Common Name: Appalachian Brook Crayfish

Classification:  Nongame Fish - Crustacean



National Range: “New Brunswick,Canada, to northern Georgia, and eastern parts of Kentucky and Tennessee to the Atlantic Ocean; restricted to the mountains and foothills in South Carolina and Georgia” (Hobbs 1989); “Blue ridge, Ridge, and Valley provinces, Tennessee” (Williams and Bivens 1996).

NC Physiographic Region(s): Blue ridge province and western piedmont; limits of range unclear

River Basin(s): upper Broad, upper Catawba, French Broad, Hiwassee, Little Tennessee, New, upper Roanoke, Watauga, upper Yadkin-Pee Dee

Adult Habitat: “mostly lotic habitats, but occasionally frequenting ponds and often burrowing along streams and in seepage areas” (Hobbs 1989); “small to medium size Blue Ridge streams (…up to 1,180 meters elevation)…” (Williams and Bivens 1996); “Waters ranging from springs to medium sized streams and lentic environments. More common in springs and smaller streams. Troglophile.Tertiary burrower.” (Bouchard 1974b); “seems to prefer running water; but can be found in burrows in riparian areas, almost always in contact with stream bed” (NHP ICAS 1999); fast-flowing, clear water; all substrates but mostly under rocks (larger crayfish under larger rocks)

Reproductive Season: late summer, fall

Species associates: many

Conservation status: not protected

Identification references: Hobbs Jr. 1989, Hobbs Jr. 1991, Jezerinac et al. 1995

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: slightly dorsoventrally flattened
  • coloration:  variable but many dark in color (shades of brown), mostly solid coloration but some with saddle pattern and mottling
  • spines: cervical spines absent but may be cervical tubercle(s); branchiostegal spines weak (if present); cephalic spine or tubercle absent
  • rostrum: short, blunt, with parallel margins; no marginal spines;acumen small (barely recognizable); corneous tubercle at apex; rounded or squared in shape; possibly excavate or ladel-like dorsally
  • areola: medium in width
  • chelae: generally smooth and large; with one row of 5-7 adpressed tubercles along mesial margin of palm; moderately developed dorsolongitudinal ridges on fingers; slight pinch both dorsally and ventrally at base of fixed finger; absense of setae between fingers; fingers gaping in large adults (particularly form I males)
  • other characteristics: eyes somewhat small; suborbital angle acute or nearly so; tuberculate carapace
  • form I male gonopod: terminal elements short; corneous centralprojection truncated and with subapical notch; mesial process and centralprojections with  space between them (shaped like crescent wrench); mesial process bulbous and tapering to point

Notes:  likely a species complex containing multiple species;wide variation in characteristics; several proposed subspecies (C. b.bartonii, C. b. cavatus, C. b. carnirostris) – much contention exists about whether these deserve recognition or are only local variations.;“…R.F. Thoma at Ohio State University will soon be publishing on the taxonomicstatus of this complex” (NHP ICAS 1999)


Crayfish regulations

According to NC General Statue and NCWRC Regulation, it is unlawful to stock any fish (including shellfish and crustaceans) into public waters without a WRC permit.  It is also unlawful to transport, purchase, possess, or sell any live individuals of virile crayfish (Orconectes (Gremicambarus) virilis), rusty crayfish (Orconectes (Procericambarus) rusticus), Australian “red claw” crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) or other species of “giant” crayfish species in the genus Cherax.

Illustrations are reproduced with the permission of the Smithsonian Institution Press. We are grateful to them for allowing us to provide this useful information with the other materials provided herein. We also wish to recognize the tremendous contribution to crayfish biology by the author/artist, the late Horton H. Hobbs Jr.

The following illustration is reproduced from:
Hobbs Jr., H. H. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, Number 480:1-236.

        Credit NCWRC for all photos.