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Sharpnose Crayfish. Photo by Chris Lukhaup. Image may be subject to copyright.
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Procambarus acutissimus (Girard, 1852)

Sharpnose Crayfish

Federal Protection: No US federal protection

State Protection: No Georgia state protection

Global Rank: G5

State Rank: S2

SWAP High Priority Species (SGCN): Yes

Element Occurrences (EOs) in Georgia: 7

Habitat Summary for element in Georgia: Temporary fluctuating pools or ponds to permanent lotic habitats (not typical of GA populations); sometimes in simple burrows


Description

The back of the Sharpnose Crayfish is pinkish brown and becomes lighter lower on the sides. There are scattered dark speckles and light splotches on the carapace and a wide dark stripe down the center of the abdomen. The claws are brown with light tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm and darker tubercles over most of the top of the claw. The areola is fairly narrow but never obliterated. The rostrum is fairly long and occasionally has marginal spines or tubercles. A single cervical spine or tubercle is sometimes present. This species reaches a maximum total body length of greater than 100 mm (>4 in).

Similar Species

The Grainy Crayfish (Procambarus verrucosus) is quite similar in appearance to the Sharpnose Crayfish. These two species occupy similar habitats and their ranges are contiguous, but not known to be overlapping. Definitive identification may require examination of male and female reproductive structures (see Hobbs 1989 for comparison).

Habitat

The Sharpnose Crayfish inhabits a variety of habitats including flowing waters, roadside ditches and temporary ponds. It also apparently burrows when these habitats dry during the summer months.

Diet

No studies of the Sharpnose Crayfish are known. Crayfishes are considered opportunistic omnivores and likely feed on live and decaying vegetation, aquatic insect larvae, small fishes, and dead animal matter.

Life History

Sharpose Crayfish is considered a secondary burrower which means that individuals live in open water part of the time but retreat to burrows as water levels decrease. As with stream dwelling species, reproduction likely occurs during the spring and fall, but males in reproductive condition may be found at any time during the year. When female crayfish are ready to lay eggs, they usually find a secure hiding place and hence are rarely encountered. In the case of secondary burrowers, females probably use burrows when they release their eggs. After the eggs are released, the female attaches them to her swimmerets and is said to be “in berry.” Upon hatching, the juvenile crayfish are attached to the mother by a thread. After the juveniles molt for the second time, they are free of the mother, but stay close and will hold on to her for some time. Eventually they move off on their own. Crayfishes molt 6 or 7 times during their first year of life and most are probably able to reproduce by the end of that year. They molt once or twice a year for the remainder of their lives and live about 3 years. Across their range, male Sharpnose Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in all months except January, February, October, and November. Males in reproductive condition in Georgia are usually found in March or April (Hobbs 1981). No females carrying eggs have been found which supports the assertion that they retreat to burrows after mating and then stay with their young until winter rains.

Survey Recommendations

Dipnetting or seining in ditches or other temporary habitats in the spring may yield this species. Once these areas begin to dry, they likely will have to be dug from burrows.

Range

The Sharpnose Crayfish is distributed from eastern Mississippi to extreme western Georgia. In Georgia, it is only known from direct tributaries to the Chattahoochee River in Harris, Muscogee, Stewart, and Quitman counties (Hobbs 1981, 1989; Stanton 2006).

Threats

The Sharpnose Crayfish is threatened in Georgia by its small geographic range and land uses within that range that could alter hydrology and water quality. It is also threatened by the presence of the non-native Red Swamp Crawfish (Procambarus clarkii).

Georgia Conservation Status

The species is only known from seven locations in Georgia and thus the loss of a single population would severely reduce the species range in the state. A once robust population in ponds and wetlands at the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center in Columbus has been reduced by the presence of Red Swamp Crawfish, Procambarus clarkii (Coble et al. 2015).

Conservation Management Recommendations

General watershed level protection measures will help secure the continued existence of the Sharpnose Crayfish in Georgia. These include the protection of riparian zones, control of sediment and nutrient runoff from farms and construction sites, and limiting the amount of impervious cover (e.g., pavement) within occupied watersheds. Non-native crayfishes should never be used for bait. Instead, anglers should use crayfishes collected from the river system they will be fishing in and should never release unused bait crayfish back into Georgia waters.

References

Coble, K.M., A.L. Hall, C.C. Meshes, J.A. Zalatan, G.E. Stanton, and T.A. Keller. 2015. Replacement of Procambarus acutissimus (Girard) by non-indigenous Procambarus clarkii (Girard) in a disturbed wetland. Freshwater Crayfish 21:153–157.

Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1981. The crayfishes of Georgia, Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 318:1–549.

Stanton, G.E. 2006. Evaluation of conservation status of six West Georgia, Chattahoochee-Flint River crayfish species. Report to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Georgia Natural Heritage Program, Social Circle, GA. 60 p.

Taylor, C.A., G.A. Schuster, J.E. Cooper, R.J. DiStefano, A.G. Eversole, P. Hamr, H.H. Hobbs III, H.W. Robison, C.E. Skelton, and R.F. Thoma. 2007. A reassessment of the conservation status of crayfishes of the United States and Canada after 10+ years of increased awareness. Fisheries 32:372–389.

Authors of Account

Christopher E. Skelton

Date Compiled or Updated

C. Skelton, August 2012: original account

C. Skelton, March 2019: general update of account.

D.Weiler, August 2019: photo added

D.Weiler, October 2019: photo added

Sharpnose Crayfish. Photo by Chris Skelton. Image may be subject to copyright.