Common Name: Upland Burrowing Crayfish

Classification:  Nongame Fish - Crustacean




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National Range: “Poorly understood, but extending southward through the Allegheny Mountains from southwestern Pennsylvania and Kentucky into southwestern Virginia, northwestern North Carolina and as far south in Tennessee as the junction of the Clinch and Holston rivers, and westward on the Cumberland Plateau to headwaters of the South Fork of the Cumberland and Caney Fork rivers in Fentress and Cumberland counties, Tennessee” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “Cumberland Plateau, Ridge and Valley, and Blue Ridge provinces, Tennessee.  Upper plateau as far south as the Emory River system. Ridge and Valley province south to the mouth of the Clinch River. Blue Ridge province south to the Nolichucky River system.” (Williams and Bivens 1996).

NC Physiographic Region(s): mountains and western upper piedmont

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

Adult Habitat: “burrows (primary burrower)” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “primary burrower although occasional specimens are collected in streams” (Williams and Bivens 1996); in burrows in mucky seepage areas near streams, walking in grass in rain (Cooper and Braswell 1995)

Reproductive Season: n/a

Species associates: n/a

Conservation status:  not protected

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

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: cylindrical or laterally compressed, vaulted
  • coloration:  cobalt blue; brick red; reddish or orangish body with black on dorsal carapace
  • spines: lacking
  • rostrum: very short, blunt, with convergent thickened margins;no marginal spines; acumen very short or nonexistent; rounded or squared in shape; somewhat excavate or ladel-like dorsally
  • areola: narrow but not linear
  • chelae: subrectangular; not possessing long setae all over; one row of large tubercles on mesial margin of palm (sometimes second row present); gape between fingers lacking or slight; well developed dorsolongitudinal ridges on both fingers
  • other characteristics: small eyes; suborbital angle absent or obtuse; lacking postorbital ridge
  • form I male gonopod: teminal elements short and similar in length (mesial process may be slightly longer); corneous central projection with subapical notch; mesial process inflated at base and tapering distally

Notes:  sometimes creates chimneys to its burrows

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.