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Tallapoosa Crayfish. 3 April 2008. Photo by Chris Skelton. Image may be subject to copyright.
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Cambarus englishi Hobbs and Hall, 1972

Tallapoosa Crayfish

Federal Protection: No US federal protection

State Protection: Rare

Global Rank: G3

State Rank: S2

SWAP High Priority Species (SGCN): Yes

Element Occurrences (EOs) in Georgia: 10

Habitat Summary for element in Georgia: Cobble-rubble riffles of medium size rivers


Description

The overall body color of the Tallapoosa Crayfish is brownish to olive and the abdomen is almost black. The rostrum tapers toward the tip and appears slightly pinched in the middle. There are well-developed cervical spines. The claws of this species may be robust and have two rows of tubercles along the mesial margin of the palm. The antennae are whitish in live individuals. This species reaches a maximum total body length of about 80 mm (3.1 inches).

Similar Species

The Tallapoosa Crayfish occurs with its close relative, the Slackwater Crayfish (Cambarus halli). In life, the two can be separated by the color of the antennae; whitish in the Tallapoosa Crayfish and pinkish in the Slackwater Crayfish. Additionally, the rostrum of Tallapoosa Crayfish appears to be more tapered and pinched in the middle, whereas the rostrum of the Slackwater Crayfish is more parallel-sided. The Variable Crayfish (Cambarus latimanus) can also be found with the Tallapoosa Crayfish, but it is a drab species with an areola that is narrower and hence more hourglass shaped than that of the Tallapoosa Crayfish.

Habitat

This species is found primarily in fast moving water under and among large rocks.

Diet

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

Life History

Stream dwelling crayfishes typically hide during the day and come out at night to feed. Reproduction usually 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. When 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. Male Tallapoosa Crayfish in reproductive condition have been collected in March, September, and October. The smallest and largest breeding males known are about 64 mm (2.5 inches) and 75 mm (3.0 inches), respectively. No females with eggs have been collected. The largest female specimen collected is about 90 mm (3.5 inches) in length.

Survey Recommendations

Since this species is usually found in swift water, it is most easily collected by holding a net perpendicular to the current downstream of a large rock, then lifting the rock and disturbing the substrate beneath it. If a crayfish is hiding underneath the rock, it will likely move into the net. Shocking downstream into a seine net with a backpack electroshocker or setting baited minnow traps overnight may also be effective. Collections in spring or fall are more likely to produce males in reproductive condition, which can be helpful with identifications.

Range

The Tallapoosa Crayfish is known only from the Tallapoosa and Little Tallapoosa river systems in Georgia and Alabama. In Georgia, these streams lie in the Piedmont physiographic province.

Threats

The small range of this species makes it vulnerable to extirpation from the state. Urbanization in the upper Tallapoosa River system is an emerging threat to the Tallapoosa Crayfish and other rare and endemic aquatic species. With more development comes an increase in impervious surfaces. This can lead to more frequent and severe stormwater flows that carry toxins and increase water temperatures; these threats are harmful to all aquatic life. Heavy sedimentation resulting from poor development and land management practices may cover substrates and other daytime hiding places on which crayfishes rely to avoid predation. The introduction of non-native crayfishes is a threat to all native crayfishes. Since this species is adapted to flowing water habitats, reservoir development in the Tallapoosa River drainage would eliminate populations upstream of any new dams.

Georgia Conservation Status

Although no populations are known to be protected, this species is considered to be stable.

Conservation Management Recommendations

Conserving populations of the Tallapoosa Crayfish will require general watershed level conservation measures, including 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

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

Hobbs, H.H., Jr. 1989. An illustrated checklist of the American crayfishes (Decapoda: Astacidae, Cambaridae, and Parastacidae). Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 480:1–236.

Hobbs, H.H., Jr., and E.T. Hall, Jr. 1972. A new crayfish from the Tallapoosa River in Georgia (Decapoda: Astacidae). Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 85:151–161.

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, June 2008: original account

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

Photo by Georgia DNR – Wildlife Resources