Salem Cave Crayfish

Cambarus hubrichti
Cambaridae (freshwater crayfish) in the order Decapoda (shrimp, crabs and lobsters)

This crayfish is one of three (possibly four) blind, white (translucent) species that occur in subterranean waters of the Missouri Ozarks. Like other cave crayfish, this species has long, narrow pincers and very long antennae. The carapace is separated at its middle by a wide space (areola).

Adult length: about 2 1/4 to 3 3/4 inches.
Habitat and conservation: 
Subterranean waters of the Missouri Ozarks. It is most often found in cave streams and is sometimes collected at the mouths of springs. Substrates include rock, sand, mud, bat quano and organic debris. This crayfish occurs only in Missouri, in caves in a few counties. Because it’s fairly uncommon and has a restricted range, it is vulnerable to extirpation. Keeping groundwater clean is a key to its survival.
Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials.
Distribution in Missouri: 
Occurs only in a broad area of the eastern Ozarks from Camden and Crawford counties southward to Oregon and Ripley counties.
Populations seem to be secure, but this crayfish’s limited range and habitat restrictions make it a species that could easily be extirpated.
Life cycle: 
Crayfish molt as they grow, discarding the old shell and replacing it with a new, larger one. After mating, the female carries the eggs, then the young, under her abdomen, attached to swimmerets, which are small appendages on the bottom of the abdomen.
Human connections: 
In 1981, an ammonium fertilizer spill 13 miles from Meramec Spring killed thousands of these and other crayfish, plus many sculpins and trout at the spring mouth. Incidents like this remind us that what goes into the ground eventually seeps into caves. It’s important to keep our groundwater clean.
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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