Common Name: Tennessee River Spiny Crayfish

Classification:  Nongame Fish - Crustacean




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National Range: “Coosa, Tennessee, and Kanawha (?) river systems in Alabama, Georgia, eastern Tennessee, Virginia (?), and West Virginia (?)…[limits of range undermined]” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “Tennessee and Coosa systems” (Bouchard 1974); “Highland Rim, Blue Ridge, and Ridge and Valley provinces, Tennessee…”(Williams and Bivens 1996)

NC Physiographic Region(s): western mountains

River Basin(s): Little Tennessee (Cheoah River drainage)

Adult Habitat: “streams” (Hobbs Jr. 1989); “springs and small to medium sized streams under rocks or in leaf litter…prefers streams flowing over limestone deposits” (Bouchard 1974)

Reproductive Season: n/a

Species associates: C. bartonii

Conservation status: placed on North Carolina Watch List (W.F. Adams and J.E. Cooper in Clamp 1999); considered by Taylor et al. (1996) to be Currently Stable throughout its range

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

Taxonomic Description:

  • body shape: cylindrical
  • coloration: brown with dark highlights; tips of fingers and stripe along lateral edge of fixed finger orange; red knob at base of dactyl dorsally; yellow
  • tubercles: underside cream
  • spines: cervical and cephalic spines present; branchiostegal spine reduced or absent
  • rostrum: margins parallel; with median carina; having marginal spines
  • areola: medium, having 3-4 punctations across narrowest part
  • chelae: robust; bearing setae; two rows well-developed tubercles along mesial margin of palm
  • other characteristics: suborbital angle subacute or obsolete; serrate cutting edge of mandible (vs. smooth in O. rusticus)
  • form I male gonopod: long terminal elements; corneous central projection comprising approx. 40% of carapace length and approx. 40% of gonopod length and tapering to point; mesial process spatulate and subequal in length; well-developed right-angle shoulder at cephalic base of central projection

Notes:  O. spinosus closely resembles (at one time was synonymous with) O. rusticus; also resembles O. putmami (maybe synonymous with); this population may turn out to be an undescribed species (Taylor 2000)

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.