A large, colorful species, the longpincered crayfish is characterized by very long, slender, blue-green pincers that are studded with prominent yellowish knobs. The carapace and abdomen are olive tan trimmed with bright red. This is the largest crayfish in Missouri. The long, blue-green pincers and large size distinguish this crayfish from other species within its range.
Similar species: The superficially similar spothanded crayfish has a conspicuous spot on each pincer at the base of the movable finger, and a crescent-shaped dark bar across the rear margin of the carapace.
Adult length: 6 inches or more (mature at about 3½ inches).
The longpincered crayfish occurs only in the White River basin of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. Substantial populations of this species occur in Table Rock Lake.
Habitat and Conservation
An inhabitant of medium-sized to large, clear Ozark streams with permanent, strong flow and predominantly silt-free substrates. The favored habitat is moderately deep pools along bluffs where rock slabs and large rubble provide crevices for hiding during the daylight hours. At dusk it emerges to forage over the stream bottom.
Crayfish are generally omnivores, eating a wide variety of plant and animal materials. This large species does not hesitate to capture and consume other crayfish if the opportunity arises.
Like other Orconectes species in the Ozarks, most males of the long-pincered crayfish molt in late summer, and go into their reproductive phase. Most breeding occurs in fall and early winter. Females carry eggs in early April and carry young in early to mid-May. This species becomes sexually mature during the second year of life, and the lifespan is probably three or more years. They grow more rapidly in ponds than in streams.
Crayfish commonly serve as fish bait, and many people eat crayfish, too. This species is captured for human consumption in Table Rock Lake. Because of its rapid growth in ponds and large size, the longpincered crayfish may be of potential value in aquaculture.
Crayfish are an important link in the food chain between plants and other animals, breaking down plant materials that are resistant to decay. Crayfish in turn are an important food for many other animals. Presence of crayfish in a stream or pond usually indicates good water quality.