Common Name: Chattahoochee Crayfish

Classification:  Nongame Fish - Crustacean




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National Range: “Chattahoochee drainage system from Lumpkin and Hall counties, Georgia, to Lee County, Alabama” (Hobbs Jr. 1989);"on the eastern versant of the Blue Ridge and Chattahoochee River Basin from southern Virginia to Alabama" (Adams 1992, quote from Hobbs Jr., pers. comm. with Adams)

NC Physiographic Region(s): parts of mountains and western piedmont; limits of range unclear

River Basin(s): upper Broad, upper Catawba, Hiwassee, New, upper Yadkin-Pee Dee

Adult Habitat: “streams, usually in riffle areas” (Hobbs 1989); fast-flowing, clear water; fast-flowing, clear water; all substrates but mostly under rocks (larger crayfish under larger rocks); Atlantic slope animals: "restricted to small, shallow, swift streams with rubble and gravel substrates", Mountain animals: "larger, deeper streams with similar but rockier substrates" (Cooper, J. E. in Clamp 1999)

Reproductive Season: late summer, fall (?)

Species associates: many

Conservation status:  placed on North Carolina Watch List (W. F. Adams and J. E. Cooper in Clamp 1999); considered by Taylor et al. (1996) as a species of Special Concern (C. howardi (s.s.), which they indicated occurred only in Alabama and Georgia (Chattahoochee River basin)

Identification references: Hobbs Jr. and Hall 1969, Hobbs Jr. 1989, Hobbs Jr. 1991; also see description written by W.F. Adams and J.E. Cooper in Clamp (1999)

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: slightly dorsoventrally flattened
  • coloration:  variable, often with many colors but also in dull solid shades (carapace shades of brown, green, tan, blue, with reddish or magenta sutures, and some with saddle pattern and mottling (shades of reddish-brown or brown with cream); some powder blue all over; New and Hiwassee River Basin populations are green or greenish-brown and are smaller animals
  • spines: cervical spines absent but may be cervical tubercle(s); branchiostegal spines weak (if present); cephalic spine or tubercle weak or absent
  • rostrum: with subparallel margins, margins may be thickened;converging acuminately to apex but not abnormally long (somewhat squarish);no marginal spines, and corneous tubercle at apex; possibly excavate or ladel-like dorsally
  • areola: medium in width; bearing approx. 5 (deep) punctationsacross narrowest part
  • 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 (similar to Puncticambarus subgenus); fingers may be gaping in large adults (particularly form I males); deep punctations on lateral margin of palm
  • other characteristics: suborbital angle acute or nearly so; tuberculate carapace
  • form I male gonopod: terminal elements short; corneous central projection truncated and with subapical notch; mesial process and central projections with space between them (like crescent wrench); mesial process bulbous and tapering but not necessarily to point – tip is flat/truncated and serrated

Notes:  Very similar to C. bartonii and may be synonymous with C. howardi. Two forms in North Carolina: one is found only in the mountains (New and Hiwassee River Basins) and is a small dark green animal that closely resembles C. bartonii and the other is found in the upper piedmont region and is a colorful form that more closely resembles C.howardi (s.s.)

Crayfish Regulations (PDF)

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.
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.