Coldwater Crayfish

Orconectes eupunctus
Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish), in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs and lobsters)

This medium-small, stout crayfish has a blue-green head and pincers, and a dark rust-brown carapace. The abdomen has a pair of conspicuous white lateral spots on the first segment, and a tapering V-shaped dark central stripe. This crayfish is distinguished from other crayfish within its range by the distinctive red and green color and V-shaped central stripe on the abdomen.

Adult length: about 1 1/4 to 2 3/4 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
In the Eleven Point River and Greer Spring Branch this is the most abundant crayfish. It occurs over coarse gravel and rock substrate in swift, shallow water. It is often found beneath rocks, in cavities that it excavates in gravel and sand.
Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials.
Distribution in Missouri: 
The coldwater crayfish has a very localized distribution in the Eleven Point River and Spring River drainages of the Ozark Region in southern Missouri and Arkansas.
Imperiled. This species is rare and only found in a small range, so it is quite vulnerable to extirpation. The Eleven Point River and Spring River are clear and cold, are fed by two of the largest Ozark springs (Greer and Mammoth). This is the most abundant crayfish in the Eleven Point River (downstream of Greer Spring) but does not live in its tributaries.
Life cycle: 
Mating occurs in the fall, beginning in mid-September and probably extending into November, and females carry eggs between March and May. Some become sexually mature by the end of their first year, but most reach maturity during their second year. The normal life span seems to be about two and a half years.
Human connections: 
Crayfish feed many types of wildlife, including many species that humans hunt and fish. Crayfish commonly serve as bait, plus many people eat crayfish, too. Crayfish are fascinating, colorful creatures in their own right and are part of our rich natural heritage.
Ecosystem connections: 
Their opportunistic, omnivorous feeding makes them an important link in the food chain between plants and vertebrates, breaking down plant and other materials that are resistant to decomposition. Crayfish in turn are an important food for many other animals.
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